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Keeping the inlet open in Carolina Beach

READ MORE: Keeping the inlet open in Carolina Beach
The Carolina Beach inlet is a popular passageway to the Atlantic Ocean for many area fishermen and pleasure boaters. It may not seem extraordinary, but the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers does plenty of work to make sure boats are able to pass through the inlet each day. “The deeper the channel is, the wider the channel is, the safer it is going to be for the average and commercial boater to use,” said Captain Mitchell Tillyard. Every few months Captain Mitchell Tillyard and the crew of the dredge vessel fry search the inlet for shoaling, mounds of sand that form under water creating shallow conditions. “We'll literally make passes back and forth across the shoal with our dredging gear until we get that sand removed and back down to the project depth we want it to be at,” Tillyard said. Before the captain and crew go trolling for shoaling a research team surveys the inlet to find the shallow spots. The crew then uses those surveys and a GPS to locate the shoals. Finally, the boat sucks up the sand and moves it to another side of the channel so boats don't get stuck. It may sound complicated, but the crew says it's really a simple concept. “Our job is just to make sure that when the survey says there's a high side we take it out,” said crewmember Vince Cucina. “Weighted boxes drag along the bottom, they suck the sand up, bring the sand aboard the vessel and then discharge it out our pipe,” explained Ed King, drag operator. Once crews are done dredging the only thing fishermen have to worry about is their catch for the day. While the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers dredge vessel returns back to port for the day, it won't be the last time they return to the Carolina Beach inlet. It can take up to two weeks of dredging before the entire inlet is safe for boats. No matter how long it takes, Carolina Beach commercial fishermen we spoke with say it's worth it. On average the clear inlet saves them about $100 and a couple of hours on each trip. If one of the fishing boats did get stuck, the cost could be a lot higher.

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