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Houston Deepening to Begin

The California, a 30-inch electrically powered cutterhead dredge, will begin work on the Houston-Galveston Lower Bay widening and deepening project in late December or early January.

On November 20, the dredge was under tow from her previous job at Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico.

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock’s power barge Key West, which has five 3600 hp generator sets on board, will power the California.

The Lower Bay is one of nine contracts that will deepen the ship channels in Houston and Galveston from the existing 40 feet to 45 feet. The widening and deepening project will also increase the inner channel to 530 feet wide, from its present 400 feet. Great Lakes has this project, which extends from Bolivar Roads, where the entrance channel joins the bay near Galveston, to Redfish Reef, about 1/3 of the way up Galveston Bay, a distance of about 11 miles.

The 10 million cubic yard contract was awarded on September 4 for $52,285,040, and includes deepening the channel, and using the dredged material to build an eight-acre bird island in the bay and a larger marsh adjacent to the Bolivar Peninsula. Great Lakes will pump dredged material in to form the base of the island and above the water line, armor the shores with rip rap and place geotubes in the marsh area.

This contract is expected to take two years, with completion projected for November, 2000, said Mike Ernst, Division Engineer for the Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Hydraulic Division. Jim Van Norman is the on-site manager for this project.

The nine dredging contracts in the ambitious deepening project are as follows:
#1, Entrance Channel Extension;
#1a, remainder of the Entrance Channel
#2, Galveston Channel
#3, Lower Bay
#4, Upper Bay
#5, Mid Bay
#6, Goat Island (mid bayou)
#7, Upper Bayou
#8, Lower Bayou

A mitigation project in fiscal year 1999 will create 118 acres of oyster reef in the bay, replacing 115 acres of oyster beds on the side slopes of the channels that will be destroyed by the dredging. Oyster shell from an area near the middle of the bay may be used to create the beds, or if the contractor elects, an alternative material may be used.

There will be three more contracts for planting marsh grass, about two years after the dredged material is placed into the marsh.

In all, 63 million cubic yards of material will be removed initilly and 354.2 million cubic yards will be removed over the 50-year life of the project, and approximately 4250 acres of marsh will be created. There are 53 miles of navigation channels in the proect.. The dredging will provide a channel with a controlling depth of 45 feet in the Ports of Houston and Galveston, for a total project cost of $566,800,000. Of that, $419,006,000 will be federal funding, and $147,794,000 from local sources. There will be a projected 352.4 million cubic yards of maintenance dredging in the next 50 years.

The Entrance Channel Extension (Contract #1) was awarded to a joint venture of Bean Horizon Corporation and Stuyvesant Dredging Company for $10,817,000, and a notice proceed was issued on August 24. The hopper dredge Stuyvesant will begin dredging in mid-December after completing a maintenance job in Freeport, Texas.

The Entrance Channel is 800 feet wide and 42 feet deep and extends 10.5 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. The extension will add about four miles of 47-foot channel into the Gulf, requiring removal of 3.7 million cubic yards of material. The wave climate in the Gulf creates more variance in ship movement, requiring greater depth.

Material from the Entrance Channel deepening will be placed offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, in a beneficial manner. The Corps has found that when the material is placed in irregular mounds, with irregular elevations, bottom life is attracted to the area, said Dalton Krueger, project manager for the Galveston District, Corps of Engineers.

The Upper Bayou (Contract #7) was awarded to Renda Marine, Inc. on October 26 for $12,526,100. (See IDR, Oct/Nov/Dec 1998, “New Dredging Contractor Renda Marine Begins in Business with Successful Bids”, pg. 8.)

This contract includes 218,000 cubic yards of maintenance dredging and 3,265,700 cubic yards of new work. The dredging portion of the cost is $8 million and the rest is for levee work. Disposal will be in Lost Lake Disposal Site in the upper part of the contract, near the San Jacinto monument.

Renda will use their new 24-inch cutterhead dredge Millenium, being built by Dredging Supply Company, on this project, which will take 463 days to complete. No notice to proceed has been issued on this project, but dredging is expected to start in January, 1999.

The contract to deepen the existing Entrance Channel to Bolivar Roads (contract # 1a) will be advertised in March or April 1999, and will involve removing eight million cubic yards of material.

Plans for FY99 include completing plans and specifications for Contract #9 and completion of plans and specifications for the remainder of the Entrance Channel (Contract #1a.) Construction on both these contracts will begin in FY99. Plans and specifications for Contracts # 4 and 8 (Upper Bay and Lower Bayou) will be started and completed.

There are 92 pipelines crossing the channel that do not meet the requirements for the 45-foot channel. The owners of the pipelines were notified shortly after the Project Cooperation Agreement was signed that the pipelines must be removed at the owners’ cost, as authorized by Congress in the Limited Reevaluation Report and Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement in WRDA 1996.

All the contracts are planned to follow an optimum construction sequence except for the Galveston Channel. The users of the Galveston Channel were to have financed the deepening, but have withdrawn their support of funding. The Port of Galveston is looking for ways to meet its share of the construction cost.

The Ports of Houston and Galveston comprise the nation’s second largest port, having processed 148 million tons of cargo in 1996. It is first in foreign commerce, with 87.1 million tons processed in 1996. The ports provide 200,000 jobs, and 5400 ships and 50,000 barges moved on the channel in 1996.

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