SHEP Moves Ahead: Final Phase of Outer Channel Deepening Kicks Off

Image source: USACE

A massive dredging effort began on December 1 to push through the final phase of the outer channel deepening for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, commonly called SHEP, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, said in their latest release. 

Up to five hopper dredges will be in the area at one time working 24-hour shifts to complete the deepening of the channel and the 7-mile seaward extension of the SHEP during the current environmental window which will close in the spring, according to USACE.

This major push by the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company will complete the deepening from Fort Pulaski and ending nearly 20 miles into the Atlantic Ocean to 47 feet,Spencer Davis, Project Manager for the SHEP, said. “This is the first step to allow the larger, neo-Panamax container ships to enter the harbor with fewer tidal restrictions.”

Later, as the Corps completes more environmental mitigation and testing, they will deepen the inner harbor from Fort Pulaski to the Garden City port to 47 feet.

USACE officials estimate the inner harbor deepening will be complete in 2022.

Environmental mitigation features

The SHEP involves significant environmental mitigation features, with many nearing completion. These include a dissolved oxygen injection system that will supply oxygen to the harbor in hotter months, a raw water storage impoundment that will provide an additional freshwater source to the City of Savannah, and a flow re-routing of the Savannah River adjacent to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.

Removal and relocation of the Civil War ironclad the CSS Georgia and raising containment area dikes, wrapped up in the summer of 2017, marked the first portions of the SHEP completed.

The Speece cones will dissolve pure oxygen into water extracted from the river, then push the water back into the river, USACE photo by Russell Wicke

Removal of tide gates and restoring the width of the Back River between Hutchinson Island and the South Carolina banks of the river will finish this calendar year.

Completion of the dissolved oxygen injection system and the raw water storage impoundment will follow in the first half of 2018.

“The unprecedented environmental mitigation program for this harbor deepening demonstrates the commitment the Corps of Engineers has for the ecology of this region,” Erik Blechinger, Deputy District Engineer for Programs and Project Management, said. “We committed to this from the beginning.”

The SHEP is projected to bring $282 million in net benefits each year to the nation, mostly in transportation cost savings. The nation will see $7.30 of benefits for every $1 spent on construction, according to the Corps’ latest economic analysis.

The outer harbor deepening remains on-budget and on-schedule. Barring unforeseeable delays, this final hopper-dredging phase will get this contract completed right on time, Davis concluded.

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