Morgan City port officials eager to test dredging option

Chief Mark Emerson of the U.S. Coast Guard in Morgan City reported on the ongoing effort to install navigation aids marking the Atchafalaya River to help vessels pass safely through the waterways.
(The Daily Review Photo by Zachary Fitzgerald)

Port of Morgan City officials are anxious to test a different method of dredging in the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel, but must first wait to see how much funding it will have to do the demonstration, Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said.
The Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District commission met Monday.
Port officials will not know any details about the duration or timeframe for the sidecaster dredge demonstration in the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel until after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finishes dredging the Crewboat Cut in the Atchafalaya River, Wade said at the meeting. Sidecasting is an alternative to cutter head dredging, which is more expensive.
Officials will have to wait probably a month and a half to two months to find out when the sidecaster dredge demonstration can begin and how long the demonstration can last, Wade said. The sidecaster dredge involves agitating the sediment that builds up in the channel and casting it to the side of the channel in order to maintain the congressionally mandated 20-foot depth of the channel.
Anh Nguyen of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the contract to dredge the Crewboat Cut in the Atchafalaya River will be awarded by April. The dredging phase of the Crewboat Cut project will open up the cut in order to make the cut self-scouring thus reducing dredging costs. Rock has already been placed along the cut to keep sediment from building up.
Port Consultant Jonathan Hird of Moffat & Nichol will deliver a report at the end of the week outlining a management strategy for the port regarding the Atchafalaya Bar Channel, which the engineering firm has been working on since 2010, Hird said. The report also includes the potential for new tenants in light of possible new developments at the port, Hird said.
Port Commission President Jerry Gauthier said the commission wants to see the sidecaster dredge come in from Wilmington, N.C., to demonstrate the effectiveness of that method of dredging.
Hird plans to meet with corps officials to determine how best to spend port funds to demonstrate the sidecaster dredge in the Atchafalaya Bar Channel, he said.
There may be some “differing of opinions” on how to spend any leftover money in the corps’ budget, Hird said. “We will sit down and try and resolve those options so that we can both have a unified opinion on the best plan for the channel, for the port,” Hird said.
Also at Monday’s port commission meeting, Chief Mark Emerson of the U.S. Coast Guard in Morgan City presented his plan for marking the river and installing permanent aids to navigation along the Atchafalaya River through Crewboat Cut to the intersection with the Intracoastal Waterway, Emerson said.
“All the floating aids to navigation that are low to the water right now, even though they are lighted, are going to be removed,” Emerson said. “My goal is to put (new) structures in with lights.” The aids will be placed just to the outside of the channel so barges can navigate through, Emerson said.
Coast Guard officials are marking where “bad water” is so mariners know the safest areas to pass through in the Atchafalaya River, Emerson said.
Re-marking the river is something that is done about once every 10 years and was especially necessary this time due to the shift of the river, Emerson said.
Emerson is pushing to finish the project before he leaves the Marine Safety Unit in Morgan City on June 19, he said.
Port Special Projects Coordinator Mike Knobloch said Monday that projects for the port’s fiscal year 2011 Port Security Grant should be finalized and in place by the end of August, he said.
For the 2014 Port Security Grant, about $100 million in federal money will be available for ports to apply to receive funding, Knobloch said.
In other business, the port commission approved authorizing Gauthier to sign a sub-grantee agreement with Belle of Orleans, which oversees the Amelia Belle Casino, to purchase security equipment as part of the Port Security Grant Program.

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