Longer Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry route now permanent

The Associated Press

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HATTERAS – The U.S. Coast Guard said the longer, alternative ferry route between Hatteras and Ocracoke will become the permanent course because of continued shoaling in the traditional channel.

The Coast Guard announced Friday that ferries will run the hour-long trip through the Barney Slough route rather than risk running aground on the former path, which has been closed since December 2013.

“I remember after Memorial Day, they spent three weeks trying to dredge it,” said Tim Haas, spokesman for the N.C. Ferry Division. “We’re not giving up on the short route, but we have to deal with reality.”

The Coast Guard will announce the plans Monday at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum.

Six vessels carry about 9,000 vehicles a week from 5 a.m. to midnight on the longer 7.7-mile route across Hatteras Inlet. The effort has driven up the cost of the crossing to $9 million from $8.1 million.

Channel markers on the new route will be fitted with beacons for better night navigation, Haas said.

The Army Corps of Engineers has struggled to keep the established, 40-minute route open since early last year. Unsuccessful dredging efforts have cost the corps nearly $2 million since January, exhausting the budget.