The Gulf Coast Chapter of the Western Dredging Association (WEDA) was back in the Big Easy for its annual conference, held from November 13 to 15, 2018, at the ACE Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The 2018 conference, which rotates each year between New Orleans, Mobile, Alabama, and Galveston, Texas, drew 163 attendees. Presentations ranged from the 2019 dredging schedules of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) to a focus on marsh creation, building barrier islands and issues associated with the beneficial use of dredge material.
In a year that saw notable new dredge equipment come online, Congress passing massive supplemental bills following the 2017 hurricane season, and harbor and channel deepening projects moving forward, the 2018 WEDA Gulf Coast Chapter meeting came at a pivotal time for dredging.
“It’s definitely an exciting time right now for the dredging industry in the South and along the Gulf Coast,” said Dave Allen, general superintendent for dredging operations and director of Texas operations for Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, who also serves as president of the WEDA Gulf Coast Chapter. “Harbor and navigation channel deepening projects are following the relatively recent expansion of the Panama Canal, and there have been multiple significant and impressive land reclamation and coastal restoration projects in Louisiana and Mississippi, with more on the way. The oil and gas export expansion has provided several opportunities for large scale projects of new berthing facilities and also drives the deepening work.”
Appropriations for dredging have been both consistent and on the rise of late, and that steady funding stream is expected to continue, Allen said.
“In general, the industry remains optimistic that the appropriate levels of federal and state funds will be maintained in order to accomplish the necessary infrastructure goals of the region,” he said. “This encourages companies to invest in newer and more efficient equipment that has the potential to reduce costs.”
Looking specifically at the Galveston Engineer District, Chris Frabotta, chief of navigation for the Galveston District and vice president of the WEDA Gulf Coast Chapter, said operations and maintenance funding has doubled over the past 12 years, going from $82 million in 2007 to $164 million in 2019.
“We are also starting to see increases in new work appropriations, construction general funding, over the past one or two years,” Frabotta said. “These increases in federal appropriations are one of the major factors driving the dredging industry to expand the contract dredging equipment fleet.”
Corps Dredging Schedule
Each WEDA Gulf Coast Chapter meeting includes the Corps dredging schedule presentations.
Vicksburg District—In February or March, the Corps’ Vicksburg District will solicit bids for a 3-year multiple award task order contract (MATOC) for a lease cutterhead 24-inch dredge to work on the Red, Ouachita and Black rivers and at harbors along the Mississippi River. Ben Emery and Andy Hall are the points of contact for the Vicksburg District.
New Orleans District—The Corps’ New Orleans District is in the midst of dredging the Calcasieu River Bar Channel, with plans to dredge between miles 17 and 36 and Devil’s Elbow on the Calcasieu River from September 2019 through August 2020. Those two projects will move a total of 11 million cubic yards of material. Near the mouth of the Mississippi River, the New Orleans District will use both hopper and cutterhead dredges to dredge the Southwest Pass to a depth of 48.5 feet and between 600 feet and 750 feet wide. The timing of those contracts will be based on river conditions. The Corps will also execute a contract to dredge the Baptist Collette Bar Channel to a depth of 16 feet from January 20 to April 20.
In the New Orleans area, the Corps will dredge the New Orleans Harbor and the forebays to Harvey Lock, the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lock and Algiers Lock sometime in 2019, with the exact timing based on river conditions.
From January 10 to March 31, a cutterhead dredge will be at work in the Bayou Lafource Bar Channel near Port Fourchon. From March 1 through August 1, the Corps will dredge Bayou Chene, an alternative to the Atchafalaya River. The Corps anticipates 5 million cubic yards to be dredged in Bayou Chene, which was last dredged in 2010. Later this summer and into the fall, the Corps will dredge locations in Berwick Bay Harbor and Lock, Tidewater Point, 20 Grand Point, Morgan City Docks East, Mile 99, the Wax Lake Outlet, Baton Rouge Harbor, the forebay at Port Allen Lock, the forebay and tailbay at Old River Lock, and Three Rivers, for a total quantity dredged of 1.2 million cubic yards. Points of contact for the New Orleans District include Russel Beauvais, Vic Landry, Tim Connell, Ray Newman, Michelle Kornick, and Tracy Falk.
Mobile District—The Mobile Engineer District, which includes five waterways, 2,200 miles of inland waterways, seven deep draft harbors, 21 shallow draft channels and 22 locks, has three upcoming dredging contracts within Mobile Harbor. In January and February, the district will advertise a pair of contracts for hopper dredges within the harbor, with the first bid opening in February and the second at the end of March. A third Mobile Harbor contract, specified for a cutterhead dredge, will be advertised in May, with bids opened in June. The Mobile District also has plans to dredge this year in Pascagoula and Gulfport, Mississippi, and along the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Herbert Bullock, Barry Dailey, Don Greene, Nate Lovelace and George F. Rush are the points of contact with the Mobile District.
Galveston District—The Galveston District, which oversees four deep draft ship channels (Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Matagorda and Houston), the harbors of Freeport and Galveston, the Sabine-Neches Waterway, and the longest stretch of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway of any single state, is overseeing a wealth of dredging projects, thanks to a total of $233 million obligate from fiscal year 2018 and a maximum of $292 million available in fiscal year 2019. On the eastern end of the district, maintenance dredging is planned to begin on the Sabine-Neches Waterway in August, with work on the outer bar and bank channel beginning in November. A total of 5.4 million cubic yards of material is planned for removal at the Houston-Galveston-Texas City Navigation Complex in 2019. Freeport Harbor will add another 2.6 million cubic yards of dredging, with an estimated start date of June 28. Moving westward, the Matagorda Ship Channel all the way from the peninsula to Point Comfort will be dredged beginning at the end of September. The Corpus Christi inner basin will also see maintenance dredging in August, in addition to the deepening and widening that’s soon to begin at the outer reach of the ship channel there. The district will also oversee dredging of Brazos Island Harbor’s jetty channel and main channel, along with numerous maintenance dredging contracts along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The main point of contact with the Galveston District is Christopher Frabotta, chief of the navigation branch.
Jerry Carroll, project engineer with CPRA’s Engineering Division, also presented his agency’s near-term construction plan. Carroll detailed more than a dozen restoration projects planned for the Louisiana coast, with some projects’ bid dates already set and others contingent upon funding. Louisiana’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan includes a total of 124 projects, ranging from structures, diversions, marsh creation and barrier island restoration. Restoration projects alone amount to $25 billion in the state’s $50 billion master plan.
Full details for the CPRA and Corps district dredge plans for 2019, along with presentations from throughout the meeting, are available on the WEDA Gulf Coast Chapter’s website. See www.WesternDredging.org.