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GALVESTON, TX- Sept. 19, 2019 – Galveston Wharves is launching a weeks-long, $1.5-million dredging project to maintain depths along its waterfront. The port’s dredging contractor will remove an estimated 135,000 cubic yards of silt, enough to fill 41 Olympic swimming pools.
Port Director Rodger Rees said, “Every year we dredge along our waterfront to maintain depths of 40-45 feet to accommodate the approximately 1000 ships that call on the port each year.”
Galveston Wharves maintains a 150-foot-wide area of the ship channel so that ships can access slips and berths between piers 10 and 41. The port also dredges a small portion of its waterfront property on Pelican Island. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges its jurisdiction, the middle of the channel, every two years to maintain a depth of 45 feet.
Local dredging contractor, Callan Marine, LTD, is expected to begin the week of Sept. 29 and work through October to pump and pipe the silt to the port’s 240-acre dredge spoil area on Pelican Island.
Director of Operations Brett Milutin said that the port coordinates with its customers, ship pilots and steam ship agents to minimize impacts to ongoing port activities and revenues.
“With 80-90 ships calling on the port each month, it’s a big task to coordinate an around-the-clock dredging operation,” Milutin said.
The contractor uses a mechanical dredge – a 145-foot-long boat with a motor and 12-inch-diameter pipe that sucks up the silt like a vacuum cleaner. Then the dredge pumps the silt through hundreds of feet of flexible pipe to the spoil area. The mechanical dredge can remove up to 10,000 cubic yards of material a day.
Months of research, planning and coordination go into preparing for the work. A hydrographic contractor surveys the channel twice a year to measure channel depths. Then port Operations, Engineering and Construction and Maintenance departments plan out where and how much silt must be removed. The port staff also maintains levees in the dredge spoil area to make sure the dredged silt drains properly.
“While we benefit from having a natural harbor, removing the silt that builds up is a never-ending task,” Rees said. “Annual dredging is part of the ongoing maintenance we do to keep the port competitive. We maintain the same depths as the ports of Houston and Texas City, which enables us to compete with regional ports.”