The dredge McFarland, one of four oceangoing hopper dredges owned and operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, conducts dredging in Morehead City in 2018. via The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

NC - Corps Asks State to Eliminate Dredge Window

The Army Corps of Engineers’ Wilmington District is requesting the state drop its environmental window for hopper dredging within the federally maintained channels at North Carolina’s ports.

Eliminating the hopper dredging window would allow the Corps more flexibility to maintain the deep-draft channels and save millions of dollars, according to an environmental assessment, or EA, the district released in August.

The Corps is also asking that bed leveling be allowed throughout the year in conjunction with hopper dredging. In bed leveling, dredge contractors use plow-like equipment to level out ridges and trenches created during dredging.

The window for hopper dredging in the state is Dec. 1 – April 15.

“Previous environmental policy documents that were coordinated between the Wilmington District and the State of North Carolina aimed to avoid dredging/placement during periods of high biological activity,” Dave Connolly, the district’s public affairs chief, said in an email. “Using risk management-based decision making for dredging eliminates constraints based on specific dates and will allow more flexibility and increase efficiency in maintaining the harbors while improving navigability and safety.”

Under what the Corps refers to as the Regional Harbor Dredge Contract, or RHDC, Wilmington is paired with Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, districts as a cost-saving measure when contracting for harbor maintenance projects predominately using hopper dredging.

Wilmington District is the only district within the RHDC that has an environmental window for hopper dredging. That could be a sticking point for these districts when it comes time to bid for a hopper dredging contract.

These particular dredges are in short supply. There are 13 available for the coast stretching from Maine to Florida and across the Gulf Coast to Texas.

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