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CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WECT) - Officials with the US Army Corps of Engineers say it's better late than never when talking about funding for dredging.
After a year of limited funding, the Corps finally received money from the federal government to clear the channels that many of our local businesses rely so heavily on.
Topsail and Carolina Beach Inlets are just some of the waterways in our area receiving the funding.
"We have a lot of catching up to do as far as these projects go," said Capt. Raymond Bleam.
Bleam heads up one of the dredging vessels and says the waiting period has been frustrating.
The government made the decision to fund dredging in response to Hurricane Irene. Although the storm was months ago, the funding is finally becoming available to fix the inlets to "pre-hurricane" conditions.
"It's a big task for us," said Bleam. "A big challenge because a lot of these inlets are real shallow."
Bleam said a lot of local fisherman and businesses were looking to stay afloat in a struggling economy with limited waterways.
"That's their bread and butter," he said. "Whether they can get out of the inlets or not. If they can't get out they're not making money."
Those with the Corps agree with Bleam.
"It was getting to the point where they were no longer going to maintain the buoys for the use of the public because the inlets weren't safe for the public to use," said Capt. Larry Calame, who is a port captain with the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The funding was approved and announced in February 2012 giving nearly half a million dollars to each inlet.
The Corps is putting in 12 hour days but pumping the bare minimum out of the channels.
"We're trying to hit all the inlets fast to get it down to where we need to and then we are going to come back and finish the job," said Calame.
Crews say they have their work cut out for them as most of the channels were becoming borderline impassable.
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