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Survey Vessels Redlinger and Elton Chirstened at Portland District; Hickson Retired

Survey Vessels Redlinger and Elton Chirstened at Portland District; Hickson Retired

By Judith Powers
With input from articles by
Michelle Helms
Public Affairs, Portland District
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

On a rainy May 19, the Corps of Engineers Portland District christened two new survey boats, naming them after Jake Redlinger and Art Elton, District employees who had made their mark on the dredging and hydrographic surveying missions of the District.

The twin 59-foot catamaran hull boats were built at Geo Shipyard, Inc. in New Iberia, Louisiana, and shipped to Victoria, Canada through the Panama Canal on a yacht transport ship. The boats were then sailed and delivered to Astoria, Oregon. All survey and sonar equipment was installed by Portland District Corps personnel. Echo sounders are a Kongsberg EM 3002 multi-beam on a deployable strut, and a single beam Odom SMBB200-3 on a deployable strut arm.

At the christening ceremony on May 19 at Vancouver Landing, Vancouver, Washington, Fran Redlinger and Beckie Elton – the wives of the boats’ namesakes – broke the traditional bottles of Champagne over the bows of the vessels, christening them in the name of the United States.

The boats were at work soon after the christening. The area of responsibility of the Portland District’s survey crews are from Cape Disappointment on the southern Washington coast, south to the Chetco River on the Oregon coast, and from the mouth of the Columbia River east to McNary Dam.

The Namesakes

Jake Redlinger began working for Portland District in 1966 after earning his bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Kansas State University.

In 1989, he went to Alaska with the hopper dredge Essayons to take part in clean-up efforts following the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound. The dragarms were turned upside down and positioned at the surface just under the oil slick to suck the oil into the hoppers. Mr. Redlinger wrote a paper on the operation and the process of cleaning out the dredge afterwards.

Mr. Redlinger worked with Robert Hopman in the North Pacific Division office, and among his achievements was establishing an inter-District working group in which a hopper dredge project estimating procedure was developed for West Coast projects.

Colleague Dave Beach, who retired in 2004, remembered that this group helped communication among the Corps Districts on the West Coast.

“We had a very successful group. Jake was the instrumental person,” he said. “Monopoly was always an issue, and the estimating team would develop a fair price for the projects” that would allow dredges who had to transit the Panama Canal to bid on the projects, said Beach.

Mr. Redlinger was active in the Pacific Chapter of the Western Dredging Association, holding office for several years running in the early 1990’s.

He died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 56 while on business in New Orleans on December 1, 1997. Dave Beach, who was with him on the trip, was that last one to talk to him, as the two planned to meet for dinner that evening. Hotel staff informed Beach that his friend and colleague had died.

Mr. Redlinger was the navigation manager for the Northwest Division at the time of his death.

He was a member of the Society of American Military Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Professional Engineers of Oregon, as well as the Western Dredging Association.

Arthur Elton came to work for the Portland District’s Plant Maintenance Section in November 1993 as an engineer in the marine engineering sub-section.

He was instrumental in improving the ship repair processes for the Corps’ survey boats as well as the dredges Essayons and Yaquina. The design and construction of both the West Mark and the Patterson were accomplished during his tenure.
Mr. Elton was diagnosed with lung cancer in September 2001 and died on September 27, 2003.

Hickson Retired

The new boats are replacing the survey boat Hickson, which was named after Robert Hickson, Sr. and dedicated on June 16, 1968.

On May 27, 2010, eight of Mr. Hickson’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren took a farewell voyage on the Hickson, to officially retire the vessel after 42 years of service.
Survey boat Hickson was based in Astoria, Oregon, and through the years surveyed coastal ports from San Francisco to Grays Harbor, and the Columbia River from Astoria to Portland. A typical survey day would cover 80 to 120 miles.

Col. Steven Miles, Portland District commander, told the family that Hickson’s mission was two-fold: to provide vital data on channel conditions, and to keep her crews safe as they traveled the sometimes treacherous waters along the Oregon coast.

As is the Corps’ tradition, the vessel was named for an individual whose professionalism and leadership left a mark of excellence on the Portland District. Robert Hickson Sr. retired in 1954, after a 46-year career with the Corps of Engineers in Portland.

He graduated from the University of Oregon School of Engineering in 1909, and, as a young man, worked on construction on the Dalles-Celilo canal, as well as the Columbia River jetties.
An Oregonian article dated April 30, 1954 says Hickson was instrumental in the project to deepen the Columbia River Channel from 20 feet to 35 feet. The same article says he was involved in the design and construction of McNary, Detroit, Lookout Point and Dorena dams, and early design work for The Dalles Dam.
Michelle Helms wrote that the projects Robert Hickson helped design and build remain vital to our infrastructure in the 21st century. Engineers today are building on his foundation and taking the steps necessary to ensure that those projects continue to manage the region’s water resources, and to support waterborne commerce in the Pacific Northwest.

His family believes Hickson would have felt confident that his life’s work continues in good hands.

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