Corps to Begin Dredgingby CBB Staff
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin its annual Columbia River dredging season this week at the mouth of the river, near Ilwaco, Wash. The work will continue through September.
Initially the agency will shave high spots in the navigation channel where sand has shoaled during the winter, but also on tap this summer are projects to dredge portions of the Columbia River navigation channel from Portland, Ore., downstream to Astoria, and the shipping channel in southern Oregon's Coos Bay.
The Corps has awarded a $3,968,363 contract to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company of Oak Brook, Ill., to do all three projects, according to the Corps' Matt Rabe. However, all the funding has yet to be lined up and it will begin work this summer by moving sand from the mouth of the river and from some areas upstream.
"Our goal is to always keep the mouth (of the Columbia River) open and to make it as safe as possible," said the Corps' Matt Rabe, adding that the Columbia River mouth is an important entry for about $14 billion in commerce. "We also understand the importance of Coos Bay and, if we can identify funds, we'll make sure we keep that open, too."
Rabe said the Corps would seek the additional money from other Corps programs that could relinquish some funds or from other local or national projects that shift priorities.
In the first stage of the work, the contractor will remove about 1.5 million cubic yards of sand from the mouth of the Columbia River and up to 100,000 cubic yards of sand from the Columbia River between the mouth and Portland. As funds become available, the Corps will complete additional dredging at the mouth of the Columbia River, in the Columbia River and in Coos Bay.
These Columbia River dredging projects are annual maintenance projects and are not directly related to the $150.8 million project that is sponsored by the Corps and six lower Columbia River Ports to deepen by three feet the Columbia River shipping channel. Depending on federal funding, that project could begin as early as fiscal year 2005.
Disposal sites the Corps will use to dump the dredged sand are site E and other sites along the south side of the north jetty, as well as the Deepwater site. After several deaths in the past several years near disposal site E at the mouth of the river, the Columbia River Crab Fishermen's Association claimed the Corps was at fault because it mounded disposed dredge material at the site, which they said caused unusual and dangerous wave amplifications. However, Rabe said this year the site has some additional capacity due to natural scouring.
In addition, if the dredging produces more sand than the capacity of the two disposal sites near the mouth, the Corps could for the first time dispose of excess sand at its Deepwater site six miles offshore. Columbia River crab fishers have long fought the use of that site because they have said it is an area thick with crabs. Rabe said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently gave the Corps temporary approval to use the area as a disposal site.
The Corps held a public meeting June 9 at the Port of Ilwaco to let boat operators know when and where the dredging will occur. "We want to minimize the interaction between the dredging operations and boaters," Rabe said.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: www.nwp.usace.army.mil
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