Posted on December 7, 2022
By Judith Powers
On December 5, the South Carolina Ports Authority celebrated the completion of its five-year channel deepening project, officially opening the new 52-foot channels with a gathering of participants and stakeholders at the Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park near the harbor entrance.
Charleston is now the deepest harbor on the U.S. East Coast.
Guests included project managers from the dredging contractors who performed the deepening — Lynn Nietfeld and Dave Johanson of GLDD, and Mike Haverty and Mike Bushery of Norfolk Dredging Company — many members of the Corps of Engineers Post-45 development team, Barbara Melvin, President & Chief Executive Officer of South Carolina Ports Authority, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, Corps South Atlantic Division commanderBrigadier General Daniel Hibner, and Charleston District Commander Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Johannes, and elected officials South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, Senator Lindsey Graham and Congresswoman Nancy Mace.
The Charleston District Post-45 development team, including engineers, surveyors, biologists, regulators, and project managers who worked on the five-year project.
Attendees watched the pull of the lever symbolizing the opening of the Post-45 project, and heard from the Corps commanders and others, who stressed the importance of the project.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
“As of January 1, we will enter the five-year Post Construction phase,” Charleston District Post-45 Project manager Bethney Ward explained. Engineers and scientists from the Corps Engineering Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg will conduct monitoring to gauge the effects of the artificial reefs near the entrance channel, water quality in the harbor, including salinity and how it affects marshes along rivers, and the potential for shoreline erosion from the post-Panamax ships traversing the deepened channels.
The shipping report for 2021 showed a significant increase in cargo and tanker traffic to the Hugh Leatherman Terminal on the Cooper River, said Ward. The 2022 report is due out at the end of December.
The expanded channels and turning basin throughout the harbor and entrance channel have been complete since September. The five-year project was completed on time and on budget.Ship traffic continued as the work proceeded. The North Charleston Terminal, channel and turning basin on the Cooper Riverwas delayed by limited capacity in placement areas and inclement weather, including a Category 1 hurricane, over the past six months, Ward told DredgeWire on December 1.
“Using adaptive management to change placement areas in recent months, we have been able to nearly complete the project, and expect to be finished by mid-December,” she said.
Marinex Construction of Charleston is the contractor on the North Charleston stretch and is employing the cutter dredges Wadmalaw and Savannah on the job. The channel is height restricted by the I-526 Don Holt bridge, and was deepened by three feet, and its turning basin expanded.
“Though the additional draft will not increase the size of ships calling at North Charleston, it will create efficiencies, said Ward. Ship traffic has continued in that channel throughout the deepening, she said.
When Hurricane Ian hit South Carolina at Georgetown on October 3, it was a Category 1 hurricane, reduced in size from its original Category 4 when it hit Southwestern Florida on September 28. Charleston suffered power outages and tree and building damages, but the only effect it had on the Post-45 project was to create shoaling in the upper reaches from river runoff.
“That shoaling will be dealt with in the course of regular maintenance dredging projects,” said Ward.
The popular Crab Bank bird sanctuary in the harbor near Mount Pleasant had no significant impact from the hurricane. Restoration of Crab Bank was an environmental beneficial use as part of the Post-45 project. Restoration was funded in part by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, which owns the sanctuary.and closely monitors it.
Many people worked on the project in the past five years, including five Charleston District Engineers, engineers, surveyors, biologists, regulators, and project managers from the Charleston District, dredging contractors Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company (GLDD), Norfolk Dredging Company and Marinex Construction, contractors and suppliers supporting the dredging, entrance channel and harbor pilots who provided important input to the design and planning of the project.