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WEDA Gulf Coast Chapter Meets in New Orleans: Program gives good overview of dredging in the area

Officers of the Gulf Coast Chapter, which met in November for the first time since Hurricane Katrina hit in August, 2005, are, from left, Charles Settoon, treasurer; Michelle Daigle, vice president; and K.C. Clark, president.

Officers of the Gulf Coast Chapter, which met in November for the first time since Hurricane Katrina hit in August, 2005, are, from left, Charles Settoon, treasurer; Michelle Daigle, vice president; and K.C. Clark, president.

Lt. Col. Murray Starkel, New Orleans Deputy District Commander, welcomed the attendees to the area.

Lt. Col. Murray Starkel, New Orleans Deputy District Commander, welcomed the attendees to the area.

Gary LaGrange, president and CEO of the Port of New Orleans, describes how the port dealt with and recovered from Hurricane Katrina.

Gary LaGrange, president and CEO of the Port of New Orleans, describes how the port dealt with and recovered from Hurricane Katrina.

The Mobile District awarded Manson Construction Company and B + B Dredging with zero-accident safety awards for 2006 and 2007. Nelson Sanchez, left, of Mobile presents the plaques to Henry Schorr, center, of Manson, and Stan Ekren, right, of B + B.

The Mobile District awarded Manson Construction Company and B + B Dredging with zero-accident safety awards for 2006 and 2007. Nelson Sanchez, left, of Mobile presents the plaques to Henry Schorr, center, of Manson, and Stan Ekren, right, of B + B.

Bill Hanson, WEDA national president, described partnering with the Corps of Engineers, listing important issues needing to be addressed by both parties.

Bill Hanson, WEDA national president, described partnering with the Corps of Engineers, listing important issues needing to be addressed by both parties.

At the ice breaker, left to right: Lenora Cousin and Capt. Gerard Maurice. Cousin is vice president /treasurer, and Maurice is president of Sunset Marine LLC. Headquartered in Kenner, Louisiana, Sunset is an 8(a) company that performs dredging in the Gul

At the ice breaker, left to right: Lenora Cousin and Capt. Gerard Maurice. Cousin is vice president /treasurer, and Maurice is president of Sunset Marine LLC. Headquartered in Kenner, Louisiana, Sunset is an 8(a) company that performs dredging in the Gul

Michael Robinson, left, and Richard Byrd of Odom at the ice breaker.

Michael Robinson, left, and Richard Byrd of Odom at the ice breaker.

The Gulf Coast Chapter met on November 15 and 16 after a two-year hiatus as a result of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the area at the end of August, 2005.

The meeting was held in New Orleans at the Ritz-Carlton meeting space, in conjunction with the Regional Corps of Engineers/Industry meeting. Approximately 130 people attended.

Chapter president K.C. Clark opened the meeting and introduced Lt. Col. Murray P. Starkel, Deputy Commander of the New Orleans District, who described plans to rebuild the coastline of Louisiana, including restoring wetlands and barrier islands.

WEDA National President Bill Hanson acknowledged the chapter officers – K. C. Clark, president; Michelle Daigle, vice president; and Charles Settoon, treasurer.

Chapter Vice President Michelle Daigle moderated the morning session, first recognizing the meeting sponsors, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock, Manson Construction Company, Orion and Weeks Marine.

Operations managers from the Vicksburg, Memphis, Mobile, Galveston and New Orleans Districts presented the dredging schedules for their districts in the first session.

They were Andy Metts of Vicksburg, Richard Sullivan of Memphis, Nelson Sanchez of Mobile, Joseph Hrametz of Galveston, and Michelle Ulm, Richard Entwisle, Tracy Falk, Beth Nord, Russell Beauvais and Victor Landry of New Orleans. The presentations were all accompanied with maps and illustrations that gave the group a good perspective on where the dredging jobs will occur, and how they integrate with the entire region.

Nelson Sanchez presented Manson Construction Company and B + B Dredging with 2006/2007 zero-accident safety awards.

“I’m impressed with the dredging companies’ safety programs,” said Sanchez. “the Mobile district takes safety seriously.”

Henry Schorr accepted the award for Manson, and Stan Ekren accepted for B + B Dredging.

Ekren told IDR that his company was pleased with the safety program they had adopted, that makes each worker conscious of and responsible for his or her own safety and that of those around them. Gary LaGrange: the Port after Katrina Gary LaGrange, president and CEO of the Port of New Orleans, opened the second session with an overview of the status of the Port of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina.

“There were a lot of intangibles involved after the hurricane,” he said. “It’s the attitude and resiliency of the people which made the difference, and that is what brought the Port of New Orleans back in two weeks’ time.”

“It took luck, good organizational skills, the ability to communicate with no means of communication, prayers and a good sense of humor,” he said. “You could cry or laugh, and the latter is what we chose.”

He described the effort to round up small boats to reach people stranded in St. Bernard Parish and the Clark Street Bridge, to bring in MARAD ships to provide quarters for 1000 dock workers, and the effort to bring in drinking water. (Editor’s note: the following ships provided post-hurricane aid to the Port and the New Orleans area – the Equality State, the Wright, the Empire State, the State of Maine, the Sirius, the Texas Clipper II, the Cape Kennedy, the Cape Knox, the Diamond State, and Cape Vincent.)

In 2006, the port’s cargo use was four percent above the pre-Katrina level, he said, though there are still financial problems. Of $165 million in damages, the port has collected insurance payments of only $40 million, and has had to rebuild without those funds.

The Mississippi Gulf Outlet (MRGO) became the whipping boy in Washington for the hurricane damage, said LaGrange. The channel is scheduled to be shut down now, displacing nine companies that were served by the 36-foot-deep channel, he said.

“The Corps of Engineers, you’re our heroes,” said LaGrange. There is no better ally or partner than the New Orleans District, he said.

“Last Saturday the streetcars started running into the Garden District,” he said. “that is what heartens us. Every street light and traffic light is a sign that the city is coming back,” he concluded.

Sean Mickal, Environmental Manager for the New Orleans District, reported on the Louisiana Coasts Protection and Restoration Study (LACPR) and the potential for dredging in the restoration.

Marcia Demma, chief of the Planning, Programs and Project Management Division of the New Orleans District, gave an update on the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, and Matthew Mahoney, Coastal Geologist and Project Manager for the Texas General Land Office spoke on the Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act Program Cycle 5 and Upcoming Dredging Needs.

Luncheon: Port Fourchon Development

The luncheon was held in conjunction with a meeting of the Society of American Military Engineers (S.A.M.E.) Louisiana Post, with a meeting led by Post President Col. Jeff Bedey.

“Coastal restoration and the restoration of New Orleans are important to the nation,” he said. “In the true sense of the word ‘strategic’, 100-year protection is a short term goal,” he said going on to describe the levee and floodwall building that is planned.

It will take a team effort to find innovative ways to protect the coastline of Louisiana. That is why WEDA (Western Dredging Association) is important, he concluded.

The luncheon speaker was Ted Falgout, Port Director of the Greater Lafourche Port Commission.

Port Fourchon, on the Southern Louisiana coast at the mouth of Bayou Lafourche in Lafourche Parish, was built in the 1970’s to service offshore oil, he said. By 2011, 70 percent of all U.S. oil will come from the Gulf of Mexico, and the port is planning an expansion program that will include port facilities as well as an improved toll road – possibly elevated. (In 2006, a transportation study found that more than 1000 trucks per day move in and out of Port Fourchon, in addition to Inland Waterway barge traffic.)

He described plans to develop another 700 acres, doubling the size of the port, and the Maritime Forest Ridge. In this project, the port authority used material from berth deepening to restore a natural ridge north of the port that had subsided due to erosion since the 1950’s. The forest and salt marsh created will become a world class birding, hiking and eco-tourism area, with plant ecotypes that will attract neo-tropical birds, he said.

The future of energy stability rests in access to the Gulf of Mexico, Falgout concluded.

K.C. Clark moderated the afternoon session.

Bill Hanson, president of the Western Dredging Association and vice president of Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, spoke on Dredging Market Changes. This was the third of four presentations Hanson has given at WEDA meetings this fall, each on a different aspect of the U.S. dredging market. Previous talks were at the Eastern and Pacific Chapters, finishing up with the Brazil Chapter meeting in December.

He described the issues involved in partnering with the Corps of Engineers, including survey issues, the bidding process, cost estimating, water quality, market-driven costs, such as fuel, mobilization costs and the use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust fund.

It is important to keep the dredgers involved in discussions as the projects change and the market changes, he said.

“The perpetual market requires that we continue to partner (on dredging projects), “ he concluded.

Dr. Robert Engler, Senior Environmental Scientist at Moffatt & Nichol Engineering, gave a slide presentation on Beneficial Use of Dredged Material, showing slides of projects that created bird habitat, land for agriculture and topsoil production. Moffatt & Nichol has a contract with the Waterways Experiment Station (Engineering Research and Design Center) to model beneficial uses, he said.

Tommy Stone, vice president, LNG Operations & Engineering of Panhandle Energy, presented a comprehensive view of liquefied natural gas transportation and terminal construction in North America.

Channing Hayden, Director of Navigation and Security of the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District, spoke on Disposal Areas. In 2006, Lake Charles Harbor provided 31,000 jobs. It is the 12th largest port in the U.S., with 55 million tons of cargo per year. It is home to the largest LNG plant in the U.S, he said. A nine-day channel closure in 2006 cost $1 billion in energy costs. By 2011, the port will import 20 percent of U.S. LNG.

With an anticipated traffic increase of 70 to 80 percent, the port faces a lack of dredged material placement sites. The port’s existence depends on dredging, he said, and the Corps and port need to develop a dredged material management plan.

The narrow channel allows only one-way traffic, and needs to be deepened and widened. Besides the material from that project, a projected four million cubic yards per year of maintenance material will need placement sites, he said.

Derek Wilson of the Corps of Engineers Engineering Research and Development Center (ERDC) described the Dredging Knowledge Base Expert System (KDBES), which was also the topic of his doctoral thesis.

Ken LaBry of C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates described the High Definition Underwater Acoustic Substructure Inspection and Shallow Water Bottom Mapping System the company developed. This is a wide, steered, high definition beam that can be used in bridge piling & pier inspections, diver assistance for debris recovery, forensic services, dock inspection, and other applications.

The company was retained to do condition surveys in the New Orleans area after Katrina, and was able to create accurate views of areas such as the Florida Street Bridge. At the Huey P. Long bridge, they did a scour survey in current that was too hazardous for a diver because of the debris flowing past at a rapid rate, creating a real-time display and a creation of a three dimensional model using the data from the survey.

Because of time limitations, Susan Hennington’s talk on CWPPRA and Beyond – the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, was postponed to another meeting, and she handed out contact sheets listing the many projects planned under this act.

Reports on WEDA Pacific and Eastern Chapter meetings will appear in the January/February 2008 issue.

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