Dredging in the Charleston Harbor Entrance Channel is underway as the first part of the Post 45 Harbor Deepening Project.
Working on the first two contracts for the $529 million project, three dredges and roughly 40 support vessels began deepening and extending the Entrance Channel to 54 feet in March.
“The first two contracts revolve around the Entrance Channel to remove more than 19 million cubic yards of material from the federal navigation channel,” said Holly Carpenter, project manager.
“The Entrance Channel construction is the most time consuming portion of the project. The next contract for the Lower Harbor deepening and widening construction is planned to be awarded next year and completed concurrently with the Entrance Channel work.”
Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company (GLDD) was awarded both contracts for the Entrance Channel.
They are using the cutterhead suction dredges Texas and Carolina, the two largest dredges of their kind in the United States, for the majority of the work. The material from these dredges is pumped into scows, which are essentially floating dump trucks, and transported to the Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site, where it is placed.
The excavator dredge New York is being used to scoop out larger chunks of material, compared to the finer material created by the cutterhead dredges.
The larger material being dredged up by the excavator is also being placed into a scow, but is then being transported nearby to create two mitigation reefs equaling approximately 66 acres of hard bottom habitat.
“Creating the two mitigation reefs is critical to this project,” said Carpenter. “We are also able to create more hard bottom as a beneficial use placement for some of the material.”
In addition to the three dredges and their scows are pipes, pumping decks, tug boats, survey vessels and more, all working together to ensure the job is done properly. More than 200 people work on these vessels daily and the dredging operation takes place 24/7, unless delayed for weather or mechanical issues.
The Post 45 Project construction is anticipated to last 40-76 months and will include the Upper and Lower Harbor in addition to the Entrance Channel.
By Sean McBride, USACE Charleston District