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Corps Uses Dredged Sand to Rebuild Galveston Beach

Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company got a 77 percent bump up to its contract for maintenance dredging to the Houston–Galveston entrance channel when officials overseeing Galveston’s parks decided that they wanted the sand.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District awarded an $11,492,530 contract on May 22, 2015, to Great Lakes for routine maintenance dredging at Galveston’s inner and outer bar, the entrance channel, and a portion of the Houston Ship Channel. Initially, the dredged material was to be placed in an openwater site approximately five miles offshore.

The Corps contracts for routine dredging of the channel every 18 to 24 months. This time, the Galveston Island Park Board of Trustees saw an opportunity to build up its beaches and put in a request for some of the sand. The board asked for 725,000 cubic yards of sand to extend the beach 20 additional blocks along the island’s seawall from 61st Street to 81st Street.

“Beaches are essential for storm surge protection and have been important economic drivers for the tourism industry on the island,” said Kelly de Schaun, executive director, Galveston Island Parks.

The sand dredged from Galveston Bay “is good quality sand,” said Sandra Arnold, chief of public affairs for the Corps’ Galveston District. “We can place it on a beach if we have a partner that wants it,” she added.

However, since the Corps is required to place dredged material in the most cost effective manner possible, anyone wanting the sand for a beach has to pay for it. And there is a cost, Arnold said. “There is additional equipment needed, additional people to operate the equipment, and additional safety people to ensure the work is conducted safely,” she said.

In this case, the additional cost added $8,859,000 to Great Lakes’ contract. The Texas General Land Office teamed up with the Galveston Island Park Board of Trustees to pay the cost.

Great Lakes began dredging in Galveston Bay in June using a trailing suction hopper dredge with pump out capabilities. In mid-August, as the TSHD Terrapin Island began working in the area closer to the seawall, it began placing sand in front of the seawall on Galveston Island. Great Lakes is pumping sand through a 30-inch discharge pipe with one booster pump to get it to the beach. The distance it has to pump the sand varies according to where the dredge is working and where it is placing the material, but Arnold said that nowhere is it more than two miles.

“This is the single largest volume of sand ever placed on Galveston’s beaches,” de Schaun said. “This project is part of a long-term strategy to build public beaches, protect community assets from storm surges and increase property values on the island.”

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