Posted on October 5, 2021
By Caroline MacLeod
Imagine a job where your office window looks out on a pod of dolphins surfing the bow wave of a giant container ship. Pretty surreal, right?
For 3 months over summer, I had the pleasure of working with an amazing team at Manson Construction Co. on the Galveston & Houston Ship Channel dredging and beach renourishment project. In just a short time, I gained immense knowledge and was fortunate enough to experience various phases of the project.
The dredging industry was quite unfamiliar to me until this job, so a closer look at the job specifications and documents was my first task. In practice, I continually learned, but having the background knowledge from these documents, along with the basic foundations of concepts learned in Florida Tech courses was paramount to my success.
An important aspect of dredging is quality control. Every hour the dredge spends at sea costs money, so the dredge must run at maximum efficiency when working. This includes ensuring the displacement of the dredge is consistent as it transports material to disposal sites and track the volume of material in each load.
Hydrographic surveying is another integral part of a dredging project. The surveys are crucial in determining the material volume and provide visuals of the dredge progress. The survey vessels owned by Manson contain advanced sonar equipment to complete these surveys. Each section of the channel has a different estimated volume and these change with each load the dredge digs. The surveys are completed in Hypack and processed to create visuals for cross-sections of the channel. In addition, AutoCAD is utilized to create a bathymetry map, a helpful color-coded visual of the water depths in the section. This allows the dredge Bayport captain to see the main lines of the section to focus on.
Once the Bayport completed dredging sections of the Galveston Ship Channel, the project moved into sections which contained material for the beach renourishment phase of the project. Previous to the commencement of pumping onto the beach, the pipeline was submerged in the first pump-off location. To ensure the material is ideal for the beach, soil samples are taken after each load is fully disposed of on the beach. The material is sifted for the observation of sand, shell hash, and clay.
Programmed with highly advanced GPS systems, the bulldozers work around the clock to grade out the beach and ensure the material is placed according to specifications. Around 950,000 cubic yards of sand is expected to be added to Galveston’s Babe’s beach on this project.
Prepping the bulldozers for beach work
Photo Credit: Caroline MacLeod, Manson Construction Co.
Not only was Galveston a great place to work by the beach and on the water, but the history of the town and the attractions made for an awesome experience. In addition to a great location, I had a team of amazing engineers and mentors to help train me along the way. They created a comfortable environment to work in and thrive, learning from each other, and striving to perform at the highest level while staying safe.
As an engineer, attention to detail is crucial, trial and error will happen, and the most satisfying work is full of challenges. I plan to continue to explore careers in this realm of engineering, and encourage any students interested to reach out!
“As an intern, Caroline contributed to the Galveston project through hydrographic surveying, daily production reporting and any miscellaneous tasks the project team needed assistance with. Caroline caught onto concepts and daily assignments quickly, and brought a positive attitude and excellent work ethic to the team. Her enthusiasm and eagerness to learn were evident throughout her time in Galveston.”
“The world begins at the end of your comfort zone!”- Neale Donald Walsch