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GLDD, Weeks, Manson & Brice Civil Construction dredges are working together on Atchafalaya

A Weeks Marine dredge in the distance works Tuesday on the Atchafalaya River, which remains below 3 feet at Morgan City.

Posted on December 5, 2021

Port of Morgan City officials had hoped to make a little history: Four dredges working on local waterways at the same time.

That didn’t quite happen. But three out of four are still at work, marking a high point in efforts to keep commercially important channels open.

A Weeks Marine cutter-head dredge has been at work recently in Berwick Bay from near the Conrad Shipyard across to the Berwick side.

The dredge will also work south of the bridges, port Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said Wednesday.

After more than five years of high-water events that dumped sediment into the local waterways, port officials were looking forward to having four dredges here simultaneously. The dredging in local waterways is funded through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Brice Civil Constructors dredge Arulak, specifically designed to remove sticky “fluff” mud from the bar channel, continues to work between Eugene Island and the sea buoy. That vessel is joined there by a conventional Great Lakes Dredge & Dock dredge.

Until late November, a Manson Construction dredge worked on local waterways. But its work here ended just before the delayed arrival of the Weeks Marine dredge.

Even so, the extensive dredging raises hopes that the authorized Port of Morgan City dimensions of 400 feet wide and 20 feet deep can be maintained. That could open the port to larger import-export vessels that have been largely absent since 2015 because of shoaling.

Traffic from larger vessels would give Louisiana rice farmers a way to export their product while generating economic spin-offs for the local economy.

So far in 2021, low water on the Atchafalaya has been more likely to complicate navigation than high water. Heavy rain fell here in the first part of the year, but the impacts on the Atchafalaya result mostly from conditions along the Mississippi River north of Louisiana.

Thirty percent of the Mississippi’s flow is diverted into the Atchafalaya.

Early Thursday, the Atchafalaya at Morgan City was at 2.18 feet, nearly 4 feet below the nominal flood stage, according to the National Weather Service. The predicted stage will be at 2.3 feet or below through Dec. 15.


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