WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- With all the jobs in our area that rely on the beaches and waterways, dredging is a big deal.
The Army Corps of Engineers just received hurricane supplement money to start restoring channels damaged during Hurricane Irene.
Ray Bleam has been a dredge captain for 42 years. He says each day and each channel bring new challenges. He's currently working on our coastal inlets in the wake of Hurricane Irene.
"Really closed 'em up to the point now where to the point where some of them can't be used for safe navigation," Bleam said.
Although Irene hit about seven months ago, the Army Corps of Engineers just got the federal hurricane supplement money they need; something Bleam says has really set back the work to clear the channels. A channel is pretty much an underwater highway that must be dredged to allow safe access for commercial and private boaters.
"That's their bread and butter whether they can get out of the inlets or not," Bleam said. "If they can't get out, they're not making money. It's affecting the economy. Millions of dollars of the economy flows out of these inlets."
The boats and money can't flow in unless Bleam helps get the sand out. On an average day, about 5,000 cubic yards, or 500 dump trucks full of sand, is dredged out of the channel.
"Dredging in general is valuable to our country and to our infrastructure," port captain Larry Calame said. "An investment in dredging is kind of like an investment to roads."
Boaters can check the depth of any channel with a tool on the Army Corps of Engineers' website.
You can find it at www.saw.usace.army.mil/nav.