Salt Ponds dredging continues, as do jetty repairs in Hampton

Senior Reporter

Across the Buckroe Beach shoreline near Point Comfort Avenue is a sight familiar to some: several tall mounds of sand.

Huge sand castles aside, the sand piles are material dredged from the Salt Ponds Inlet, part of Hampton’s ongoing dredging project and its efforts to reduce the need for dredging so frequently.

The project, which includes the inlet and the sand trap north of the inlet, began last October. It is aimed at keeping the channel open for boating, city officials said.

The inlet, created in the 1970s, fills up with sand quickly, partially because of its hard right-angle layout.

But improvements to the inlet’s infrastructure are coming and some boat owners are optimistic about the progress made so far.

“Very pleased with the response … to keep the inlet open and more stable and managed, which it hasn’t been for years,” said Tim Leighton, president of the Long Creek Waterways Association.

Leighton’s group, along with residents from Colonial Acres and local marinas, met last November for a community forum at Southhall Landing Marina, to discuss the Salt Pond Inlet and find solutions with the city.

The former Navy officer owns a 48-foot trawler and said the city has had some fits and starts in maintaining the inlet.

Boat owners haven’t been using the inlet as much as it should be used because it is difficult to navigate, he said.

“A lot of boaters have abandoned the marina. It takes a month for a bad word to get out … it takes years for people to trust again,” he said.

He said the city understands the economic impact of the inlet and has done a good job with dredging.

Whitestone-based, Dock of the Bay LLC is doing the dredging project, which calls for repairs to two jetties that are north and south of the inlet, said city water resources engineer Brian Lewis.

Work to improve and extend the northern jetty should also help reduce the frequency of the dredging.

Crews are repairing a breach in the south jetty, which is old and made of rotting wood. The repair will cost an additional $59,615.

The second phase of this project will be to dredge a sand trap adjacent to the north jetty, which will help keep sand from getting into the inlet.

In the current five-year capital improvement plan, roughly $3.8 million has been proposed for the Salt Pond Inlet improvement projects, which includes the $718,050 for the current round of dredging.

The bulk of that proposed allotment — $3.1 million — would be would be available by the city’s 2021 fiscal year.

The bulk of the sand mounds will be placed on the Salt Pond Beach, but some will be used to replenish sand that has eroded adjacent to the fishing pier at Buckroe Beach.

“We have used similar material from previous dredging projects,” city spokeswoman Robin McCormick said in an email. “Once the sand dries, the contractor will spread it and the sun will bleach it, making it consistent with existing sand.”

City officials hope to replace the south jetty and have been working on designs, securing permits and identifying funding, Lewis said.

“I do know the [City] Council has made that a priority. That money is available to us, but we want to move that up, … move that forward to an earlier fiscal year,” he said.

Vernon Sparks can be reached by phone at 757-247-4832

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