Dredged Berms Progressing On Louisiana Coast
As of mid-August, dredges working on the protective berms along the Louisiana coast had moved six million cubic yards of sand, Ancil Taylor told IDR. Taylor is part of the team from Bean Dredging Company that has been hired to manage the dredging contracts on the project. Three quarters of the sand has been deposited in offshore re-handling areas to be pumped onto the berms, and three miles of berm are fully complete, with others in progress and stopping oil.
When there is rough weather that pushes oil onto the berms, the National Guard sends soldiers or contractors to pick up the oil, and dredging is stopped until the oil has been removed. The dredging project will avoid areas where oil is sighted.
The sand is behaving better than expected, said Taylor. The efficiencies have been better than expected; the slopes are exactly as predicted, which makes the operation easier.
He reiterated his earlier statements that the project is marked by unprecedented cooperation between dredging people, the Shaw Group (who is managing the project), and GCR (who is managing the permitting). The coastal planning and engineering is fine tuned to the point where the plans are completed in some cases just hours before the dredge arrives to work that portion of the project, Taylor stated.
In mid-August, the dredges Alaska and Ellefsen were pumping directly onto the berms, the California was loading scows through a spider barge in the river, and the Texas was finishing up a project to fill a previous borrow pit. The Texas would then move to a re-handling area on another of the six berms in progress. The project keeps moving down the coastline, finishing the segments, one of which is 15 miles long and will be pumped directly in place.
“We are optimizing the dredge characteristics with their application on the project,” said Taylor. Each dredge has particular specs, which the dredge consulting team matches to a part of job. He explained that the California had replaced the Ellefsen in the river loading scows, and the Ellefsen moved to a re-handling area to place sand on segment W9 west of the Mississippi River.
Watching hurricanes, tropical storms and tropical depressions became part of the dredging projects as summer arrived. In June and July, Hurricane Alex developed in the Atlantic, creating heavy seas that shut down the berm dredging and oil spill cleanup.
“During the hurricane warning, dredges have been on seakeeper characteristics, and some came in,” said Taylor. “We are now watching for Tropical Depression #5, and as a precaution, have sent the more vulnerable equipment to safe water. This is the equipment on the Chandeleur Islands, which is wide open. The western re-handling areas are also exposed, where the Ellefson is working. The California is in the river, and not exposed, and the hoppers can continue working,” he said.
Protected waters are behind Cat Island on the east and Grand Isle on the west, and the dredges from the exposed areas began moving there starting at 9:30 p.m. on August 10 as Alex approached. Since then, there have been two more hurricanes –Danielle on August 21 through 31, with winds of 135 mph; Earl on August 25, with winds of 135 mph; and tropical storm Fiona on August 30, with 40 mph winds.
All the hurricanes bypassed coastal Louisiana and the cleanup and dredging operations.
The dredges on the project are: cutters Alaska, Texas, California, and E.W. Ellefson; and hoppers Glenn Edwards, Stuyvesant, Liberty Island and Bayport; 10 large scows of 4000 to 8800 cubic yard capacity, with associated tugboats.
“We are looking at a November timeframe for finishing up the (six originally) permitted segments,” said Taylor. The progress depends on availability of borrow pits, he said, explaining that the Marine Mineral Service is working to open up more borrow sites.
Taylor praised the contractors working on the project, saying that unprecedented teamwork and sharing assets, management people and equipment wouldn’t normally be seen in a competitive environment.
“They have all come together to make it happen,” he said.