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Corps Dredge McFarland Responds to Shoaling at Southwest Pass

From the end of March through the end of May, The Dredge McFarland, based out of Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia, completed 62 days of urgent dredging at the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River 90 miles south of New Orleans.

The McFarland, one of four Army Corps owned and operated deep-draft hopper dredges, removed critical shoals that had impacted navigation along the Mississippi River. High river stages occurred, which increased shoaling at the mouth of the river.

Since 2010, the McFarland has operated in a Ready Reserve status, meaning the vessel is limited to 70 days per year of dredging operations in the Delaware River. The crew performs readiness exercises to maintain skills, and ensures that the McFarland is ready to respond to emergency or urgent dredging requirements.

This year, private industry dredging vessels could not meet all of the dredging demands of the Lower Mississippi River due to other projects around the country, so the Corps called on the McFarland.

The vessel primarily dredged the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River, removing approximately 950,000 cubic yards of material from the channel.

“The river is surveyed on a daily basis so we are frequently relocated to dredge in the areas where the sediment is shoaling,” said Stanley Kostka, second mate.

In addition to shoaling, the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River experienced a significant amount of heavy flocculation, a phenomenon of increased suspended sediment in the river. To safely pass through the flocculation, certain vessels can only enter the river during higher tides.

The Dutra Group’s hopper Dredge Stuyvesant worked with the McFarland simultaneously in the Lower Mississippi River. The hopper Dredge Wheeler, which is owned and operated by the New Orleans District, was working in the river, but sustained damages during high winds and had to depart to undergo repairs.

“I think of the dredge like a fire truck in that it will respond when needed, but otherwise we train, perform repairs, and keep the equipment and crew ready to respond to headquarters directed callouts” said Jim Amadio, McFarland operations manager.

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