CHATHAM — Crowded by boaters, fishermen and the occasional kayak slipping in and out of Stage Harbor, the 150-foot hopper dredge Currituck is slowly, nimbly chewing through the shoals that choke the harbor entrance.
A marvel of engineering, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredge churns up the bottom with two large drag arms and pumps the muddy slurry into the large open hopper. The boat then maneuvers its way to a predetermined site, and empties its load through a remarkable mechanism: the Currituck splits along its keel, dropping the sand with precision.
As of Tuesday, the dredge had cleared 31,000 cubic yards of sand, making good progress toward the goal of removing upwards of 50,000 cubic yards from the cut, stripping back the sand that bottlenecks the harbor entrance. The project was expected to be complete by July 4, but may be extended slightly, officials say.
Chatham Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon said the town is very fortunate to have the dredge in town. A commercial dredge capable of doing the same work – if one were available – would likely cost the town millions of dollars, he said.