Unprecedented: Dredges from four contractors converge on Port of Morgan City with hopes of open channel this fall; GLDD, Manson, and Weeks all involved along with Brice Civil Constructors

The Brice dredge Arulaq, shown in this June photo, is one of four dredges that will be at work this fall on the Port of Morgan City's main channel. The Daily Review/Bill Decker

Posted on August 11, 2021

November, the traditional month of thanksgiving, could be extra special this year for the Port of Morgan City. By extension, that could mean bounty for the local economy.

The Harbor & Terminal District Commission, which operates the port, heard Monday that four dredges will be operating at the same time this fall. Their goal will be to have the port’s main channel at its authorized dimensions of 20 feet deep and 400 feet wide in time for a November ribbon-cutting.

After six years of high-water events dumped sediment into the key waterways, limiting access for large ships, a clear channel could bring back vessels big enough to engage in import and export commerce.

And that could mean tens of thousands of dollars for the local economy each time a ship pulls in.

“It looks like we’ll be open all the way to the dock for the first time in a long time,” Tim Connell, a civil engineer and project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans, told the commissioners Monday.

In the Bar Channel, between Eugene Island and the sea buoy, the Brice Civil Constructors dredge Arulaq will continue to use an agitation process to remove sticky “fluff” mud.

The Arulaq, working at the port on a contract that has paid $14 million so far, is in the shipyard for repairs. When it’s back to work ,it will be joined by the Manson Construction dredge Newport, which will work on firming up the channel dimensions.

Closer to the port, the Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co.’s dredge Alaska is beginning its work again under an existing $20 million contract. Weeks Marine Co.’s dredge Borinquen is scheduled to start work in September.

“In another month we will have four dredges in the area,” port Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said. “That’s the most ever.”

Dock work
Port officials are hoping to have an expanded dock for the vessels that make their way up the channel.
Plans for the $26 million expansion to the east of the existing dock have been split into two phases, said Michael Knobloch of Knobloch Professional Services.

The first phase would cost $18 million. The port has applied for a Port Priority Program grant from the state Department of Transportation and Development, which would pay for 80% of the work.

Knobloch is expecting to learn this week whether the grant will be approved.

If the state grant application gets the OK, some of the money could be used as the local match for a federal grant under the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Program.
That grant would go toward the $8 million cost of the second phase.

The port’s application for an unrelated grant from the Port Security Grant Program was denied, Knobloch said.

The port had hoped to use $430,000 in grant funding for cybersecurity and other projects.

Offshore moratorium
The port board unanimously passed a resolution calling on President Joseph Biden and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to allow oil and gas lease sales on the Outer Continental Shelf.

Biden issued an executive order in January blocking as many lease sales as practical as a way to combat climate change. In March, the Biden administration canceled a proposed 78 million-acre lease auction.
The resolution passed by the commission cites a June ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty of the Western District of Louisiana. Doughty, who issued a temporary order against suspension of existing lease schedules.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by 12 oil-producing states, including Louisiana.

The resolution also said the industry has played an important role in the national economy and has taken steps to reduce carbon emissions linked by scientists to climate change.
More vessels

Vessel transits through area waterways were up 16.7% in July, Lt. Hayley Gipson reported.

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