With navigation through Belle Pass compromised due to siltation, the Greater Lafourche Port Commission (GLPC) has taken the proactive step to contribute funds to the Corps of Engineers to procure a dredge contract to bring portions of Belle Pass back to its appropriate depth.
This work, being performed by Crosby Dredging, under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers, is unique because the GLPC is providing the majority of the funding to perform the job that is typically done through the Corps’ Operations and Maintenance Budget for Belle Pass, as they are responsible for this federally authorized channel.
“Although the Corps does have a little over $900,000 in Operations and Maintenance funding for Belle Pass in its budget, it isn’t near enough to cover the over $3 million cost to bring it back to an acceptable draft, which is 27-feet, up from the 22-feet that it is currently at now,” GLPC Executive Director Chett Chiasson said, “That is why the Commission approved a Memorandum of Agreement with the Corps to fund $2.1 million of the project.”
This emergency dredging, which will begin this week is expected to be completed by January 6, 2021, according to the contractor on site. However, the West side of the channel is expected to be at full depth within the next two weeks to facilitate navigation for larger vessels.
“This siltation, which is a process where sediment can collect on the bottom of a waterway, was exasperated due to the amount of storm activity we experienced this hurricane season,” Chiasson said. “Our tenants and users need a deeper draft to better perform their daily activities, so performing this work now was completely necessary.”
The Port Commission and Port Fourchon Harbor Police are currently working with the Corps and dredging contractor Crosby Dredging to ensure that this project goes smoothly, with as little interruption to vessel traffic as possible.
For the duration of the project, the dredging work area will be designated as a safety zone within 500 feet of the dredge. Mariners must travel at their lowest safe speed to minimize wake and ensure operational safety. Harbor Police Marine Patrol will be on scene to facilitate movements through the safety zone when necessary.
“It’s a process,” Chiasson said of working with the Corps. “While we work with them routinely to get jobs done, this is one where we weren’t in a position to follow a schedule that would cause us to wait for an extended period of time.”
Similar to other issues that come up in the Port from time to time, the GLPC will continue its history of aiding its tenants and users with investments that benefit them and their businesses as a whole.