Port looks to next river dredging method

By: JAMES A. ROBICHAUX

The Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District board discussed progress on the Agitation Dredging Project, new efforts in the decades-long struggle to keep the shipping channels clear, and the cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during Monday’s meeting.

“We had a good meeting Thursday with the Corps to go over the technical report with the agitation first trial on the bottom profiling,” Jonathan Hird of the port’s engineering firm, Moffat and Nichol, said.

“No real surprises that there wasn’t the anticipated benefits and reduction in the density, but there were some improvements on the yield strength,” he said.

“I don’t think that the agitation with the bottom profile classifies as a success,” Hird said.

Bottom-profiling was the first of three phases of the Agitation Dredging Project. The port had low expectations for its success, but it was also the cheapest possible solution and was therefore attempted first.

The second phase is water-injected dredging, and the third phase, which port executive director Jerry Hoffpauir said last month has the greatest chance of succeeding, is side-casting.

“So,” Hird continued explaining to the commissioners, “we are now moving to the second round later this year, which the Corps agreed to, and we’ll discuss whether we will go with the agitation with the sidecaster.”

Whether or not to skip Phase 2 and go right to Phase 3 is matter of discussion right now between the port and the Corps of Engineers, and will depend on several factors, including available funding.

Port president Jerry Gauthier said that he appreciated that the Corps of Engineers is working with the engineers hired by the port.

“We’ve never seen that kind of cooperation in all these years, and it’s working out so well,” Gauthier said.

In related news, Gauthier and other commissioners expressed their appreciation for the work of the U.S. Coast Guard in the area.

“I think the Coast Guard has maybe not been appreciated for how big a part it plays in this community, and it’s getting bigger all the time,” Gauthier said.

In other news, Cindy Cutrera of the port reported on the quantity of vessels through port waters in the month of April as measured by the “Port Vision” system that tracks movement of vessels via satellite.

“During April, we had 730 vessels that crossed port boundaries a total of 3,499 times. That’s either going through or coming to one of the facilities. We had 153 vessels that utilized the channel 412 times,” Cutrera said.

The past two years, the port has ranked in the top 100 busiest ports in the country. Busier ports receive greater consideration for federal grant funding, port officials have said.

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