Dredging company hired for Savannah Harbor wins complex project along Gulf coast

By David Pendered

The dredging company retained to deepen the Savannah Harbor has won a major contract in Louisiana, which illustrates the company’s depth of experience in handling major earth-moving projects.

Shell Island, La.

The company hired to dredge the approach to the Savannah Harbor has just won a complex project to restore an island of the coast of Louisiana. Credit: gldd.com

Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Corp. won a $76 million contract to restore Shell Island, off the Louisiana coast. The project involves creating 2.8 miles of beach and dune habitat, and 281 acres of marsh. Funds from the BP settlement of the 2010 oil spill are to pay for the work.

The project is anticipated to require 4.9 million cubic yards of sand borrowed from the Mississippi River and 1.7 million cubic yards of marsh material borrowed from an offshore source in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the company’s statement.

The plan calls for Great Lakes to transport river bed deposits from the Mississippi River in a sand and water slurry through a 16 mile long pipeline placed over two levees, bored beneath two highways, and submerged along the Empire Waterway to Shell Island, according to a statement posted on businesswire.com.

The company successfully utilized this pipeline on the Scofield Island Restoration Project in 2012 to 2013, which involved the longest direct pump dredging operation ever performed in the U.S., and also on the Shell Island East Berm Barrier Island Restoration Project in 2013, the statement said. Work on the Shell Island West project will begin this fall and is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2016.

Meanwhile, in Savannah, port officials say the deepening project is moving forward.

Savannah harbor diagram of channel deepening

This diagram shows the plan for deepening the channel leading to the Savannah Harbor. File/Credit: http://static.dvidshub.net/

On March 4, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Corp. was announced as winner of the first phase of the the harbor deepening project. The work for this contract represents about half of the channel deepening, increasing the depth of the channel in the Atlantic Ocean to 49 feet below mean sea level, and extending it an additional seven miles, according to a statement from the Georgia Ports Authority.

Two other projects are underway:

  • “Archaeologists began diving Jan. 29 to recover the remains of the Confederate ironclad CSS Georgia. The historic Civil War ironclad rests 40 feet below the river’s surface on the edge of the navigation channel. Scuttled by her crew in 1864 to prevent Union capture, the vessel has been at the bottom of the river since. The harbor deepening plan calls for data recovery, removal and conservation of this cultural resource,” according to the GPA statement.

    Savannah harbor deepening map

    The first phase of work to deepen the Savannah Harbor involves dredging from near Fort Pulaski out into the Atlanta Ocean, along the existing channel, for a total distance of 18.2 miles. File/Credit: charts.noaa.gov, David Pendered

  • “Bids for a Dissolved Oxygen System contract are currently under evaluation. Awarding of the contract is expected within the next few months. This system will ensure the river maintains necessary dissolved oxygen levels during hot, dry months when levels typically drop,” according to the GPA statement, issued in May.

“The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project has seen major progress in the past few months, with the contract issued to deepen the 18-mile outer harbor to 49 feet, crews raising the CSS Georgia, and installation set to start for oxygen injection systems,” GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz said in the statement.

“The Corps of Engineers has been a steadfast partner in the 15-year process leading up to construction, and we look forward to working with the Corps and our Washington delegation to bring this pivotal project to completion,” the statement continued.


David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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