Dredging operations are running full-bore on Bald Head Island, as contractors move sand from Jaybird Shoals ashore to protect the rock groin and add material to South Beach.

The Marinex Construction Co. dredge started pulling sand about three weeks ago and is roughly one-third done with the job, officials estimated. They work during the winter to avoid disturbing nesting sea turtles and migrating fish species.

Dale McPherson, on-site monitor for engineer Erik Olsen, said the 24-inch dredge was moving an average of 10,000 cubic yards of sand a day, but had one day when it pulled 30,000 cubic yards. The Village’s $11.7-million contract calls for placement of 1.1-million cubic yards of sand.

The work accomplishes several things. First, it puts sand behind and along part of the terminal rock groin where West and South beaches meet. That placement is called a fillet. The job will provide sand for the beach and cover the 13 sand-filled geotextile tubes that help keep South Beach from slipping into the nearby shipping channel.

The rock groin – the only one of its kind in the state – employs giant boulders arranged like a bent arm to trap some, but not all of, the longshore migrating sand.

In total, the dredging will create a berm between 200 and 250-feet wide stretching about a half-mile, said Jeff Griffin, assistant village manager and shoreline protection

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McPherson said operators were bringing high-quality sand ashore and had not experienced any significant problems. They did strike an unexpected pile of hard coal one day but quickly repositioned the dredge to avoid the coal. Crews on the beach removed all the fist-size chunks right away. Village officials believe the coal may have fallen long ago from one of the many steamships that once plied the Lower Cape Fear.

The dredge pipe includes a splitter device that allows crews to place sand along separate sections of the beach without completely repositioning the pipe.

The next step will be for Bradley Industrial Textiles to replace a number of the sand-filled groin tubes, Griffin said. The replacement tubes will have a coating to make them more resistant to ultraviolet light when they’re not completely covered with sand, he said. That contract is for $1.04-million.

During construction, beach-goers are asked to avoid the fenced-off areas completely and to use only the sand-covered crosswalks when stepping over the dredge pipe.