A group of experts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Jacksonville District, Port of Palm Beach and the local Harbor Pilots Association, achieved a victory when they received approval to release the final Integrated Feasibility Report for the Lake Worth Inlet study.
This significant milestone was achieved after the report was presented to Corps leadership at a Civil Works Review Board in Washington D.C. Jan. 24 to discuss the recommended actions to deepen and widen Palm Beach Harbor under the Corps National Pilot Program for Feasibility Studies, which aims to streamline the Corps planning process.
“The goal was to complete a project from start-date to final report in three years or less – that’s far ahead of past process schedules,” said Jacksonville District Commander, Col. Alan M. Dodd. “We achieved each major milestone and with a final report scheduled for April 2014, we’ll reach that goal.”
“The progress we have made really highlights the successful partnership at the local, state and federal levels. The Port of Palm Beach is in full support of the recommended channel improvements and wishes to proceed as expeditiously as possible to begin realizing the operational and economic benefits,” said Corps project manager Laurel Reichold.
The review board approval marks a significant milestone for the study, which includes deepening and widening Palm Beach Harbor and a recommended navigation improvement plan. The report outlines the major national benefits achieved through transportation cost savings, navigation safety, and increased economic efficiency of the port with implementation of the project.
“Our staff has diligently worked to identify and represent in detail the immediate need for dredging at the Port of Palm Beach,” said Manuel Almira, Port of Palm Beach executive director. “We feel that the Port’s presentation was very well-received by the Army Corps of Engineers panel, and we look forward to working closely with the Corps to see this project through.” Almira, Port of Palm Beach district chairman Edward R. Oppel and planning and development director Carl S. Baker attended the presentation.
Palm Beach Harbor has not had any federal improvements in more than 50 years, resulting in a channel that’s insufficient for today’s existing vessel fleet.
The recommended plan deepens the existing 33-foot project depth to 41-feet in the entrance channel, 39-feet in the inner channel and main turning basin, and widens the existing footprint in certain places. An advance maintenance plan with jetty stabilization and settling basin expansion is also part of the recommended plan.
“The plan allows vessels to accommodate more tonnage per trip, eliminating the need to do vessel light-loading and incurred tidal delays, which historically results in higher transportation costs,” Reichold said. “The improved advance maintenance plan will decrease O&M (operations and maintenance) events, saving the federal government approximately $850,000 annually,” she added.
Historically, O&M occurred up to two times per year; the plan reduces maintenance dredging to once every two years. In addition to substantial savings, incidental benefits include less reliance on dredging every year, reduction in shoal impacted restrictions, and fewer disturbances to the community and the natural environment.
The project is a significant national infrastructure improvement to a channel constructed 50 years ago. The improvements will increase port safety; create jobs; reduce the required Federal investment in maintenance long-term; and, provide economic benefit to the nation, according to the study.
Once Congress authorizes the project and the Corps receives funding, the Corps anticipates a pre-construction, engineering and design phase will take approximately 24 months, followed by a 24-month construction phase.
Press Release, February 11, 2014