Dredging on Morehead City Harbor to Begin Soon (USA)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is set to begin in the next few days two dredge projects intended to help commercial marine traffic that has been impeded by shoaling in the channels.

And one of those projects that is expected to begin Friday – deepening the Morehead City Harbor at the ocean bar – will have the added benefit of replenishing more than 1.1 million cubic yards of sand lost to erosion on the eastern end of Bogue Banks.

The second project, set to begin Nov. 17, will deepen for the first time since the 1990s the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in the Hobucken Cut in Pamlico County, to be followed by Core Creek Land Cut in Carteret County, sections of the ICW transited extensively by customers of the N.C. Port of Morehead City.

Howard Varnam, assistant to the chief of operations for the Corps, last week told members of the Morehead City Ports Committee that the projects are unusual in a number of ways. The guest speaker at the group’s monthly meeting at the Sanitary Restaurant, Mr. Varnam said the combined $11.28 million projects are completely federally funded.

He said the sand from the ocean bar project should be enough to cover the strand from the western end of Fort Macon State Park to the vicinity of the Atlantic Beach Circle. But the project isn’t technically re-nourishment, rather the dredge materials will flow naturally from the pipeline onto the beach.

“The distance covered will be determined by how the material stacks up on the beach,” he said. “It’s possible it may not go all the way to the circle,” referring to the former amusement area on the main strand in Atlantic Beach.

But the removal of up to 295,000 additional cubic yards of material in the project is going to be possible through federal stimulus funding, Mr. Varnam said.

He said the ocean bar project will not begin placing sand on the beach until after Tuesday and the work must be completed by April 30, the environmental window dictated by sea turtle nesting season.

The $10.5 million contract for the harbor project was awarded to Marinex Construction Co. Inc. of Charleston, S.C., a firm Mr. Varnam described as a “small business contractor.”

“They beat the big boys,” he said.

It’s also the first project for the company’s dredge Savannah, an ocean-certified pipeline dredge Mr. Varnam called “the first of its kind.”

“I think you’re going to see it’s pretty efficient,” he said.

The work will dredge a roughly 3.5-mile-long, 400- to 650-foot-wide segment including areas known as Range A, Cutoff and Range B, to the required 45-foot depth, plus 2 additional feet.

Mr. Varnam said finding a firm with a dredge that met the contract requirements was difficult with the ongoing cleanup following the oilrig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year.

“There are a limited number of ocean-certified dredges because there are so many in the Gulf. It worked out this time,” he said.

Morehead City pilot Capt. Bill Baily said the project was badly needed because ocean carriers make decisions on which ports to use based on information they hear about navigation channels.

He said 45 feet depth at high tide and 42 feet at low tide was “normal” and that leaves little room for error.

Concerns over the Morehead City harbor have caused costly delays, particularly for ships arriving and departing at night when the channel is especially treacherous.

“I’ve had a half-dozen ships at 39- to 40-foot drafts held up for daylight,” Capt. Baily said.

The $780,000, roughly 5-mile-long by 90-foot-wide Hobucken Cut project is part of a larger $3.9 million slate of maintenance dredging planned for ICW and inlet crossings in fiscal 2011.

The slate also includes Core Creek Land Cut, Bogue Inlet Crossing, New River Inlet Crossing, New Topsail Inlet Crossing, Carolina Beach Inlet Crossing, Lockwood’s Folly Inlet Crossing and Shallotte Inlet Crossing. But priority was given to the projects in this area, which are more heavily used for commercial traffic.

“Funding is drying up for the smaller inlets,” Mr. Varnam said.

The Hobucken Cut and Core Creek Cut are used extensively for barge traffic to and from the port by users such as PotashCorp Aurora (formerly PCS Phophate) and Nucor Steel of Tunis.

Cottrell Contracting Inc. of Chesapeake, Va., was awarded the contract estimated to be completed by Dec. 8. The contract completion date is April 8, 2011.

The project will deepen the channel to its required 12-foot depth, plus 2 additional feet, removing about 100,000 cubic yards of silt and sand material to an upland disposal site.

Capt. Terry Buck, the North Carolina operations manager for Compass Marine Services Inc. of Morehead City, said the shoaling along the channel was forcing his clients to make more trips with lighter loads.

“It’s going to be wonderful. This is the first time in a long time that we’ve had funding for this type of project,” he said.

Capt. Buck said the added depth will allow increased tonnage on each barge trip.

“We’re way down,” he said. “We’ve been losing 15 to 18 percent per year and we do about 1.5 million tons per year.”

By Mark Hibbs (carteretnewstimes)


Source: carteretnewstimes, November 11, 2010;