Port partners to tackle ship channel dredging

Sep 23, 2017

The Port of Lake Charles has partnered with the Water Institute of the Gulf on a study that will identify the source of sediment building up in the Calcasieu Ship Channel, areas to dispose dredged material and solutions on how to best use dredged material.

Port Board members in August approved $360,000 for the contract and $40,000 in contingency funds, Port Director Bill Rase said Friday.

Because the number of anticipated LNG projects in the area is expected to double the channel’s ship traffic by 2023, Rase said that having worldwide scientific experts is key in getting the channel dredged to its congressionally authorized dimensions of 400 feet wide and 40 feet deep.

The Baton Rouge-based Water Institute of the Gulf signed a memorandum of understanding in July with the Netherlands-based water institute Deltares.

“The scientists in Holland and Norway deal with water way more than we do,” he said. “It seemed to us we needed some expertise to identify what causes the silting sand material to build up in our channel and what are some solutions.”

Because the water in the ship channel moves slowly, Rase said, any silting that occurs settles and can restrict a ship’s draft. He said the Mississippi River moves 411,000 cubic feet of water per second, while the ship channel moves about 400 cubic feet.

Rase said the sediment leads to additional costs with dredging the channel and maintaining sites where the dredged material is placed. Plus, the channel not being dredged to its authorized dimensions could leave a negative impression for companies looking to invest in the area.

“If they can’t have a dependable channel, they can’t be here,” Rase said. “The first thing people do is find out what the waterway is like and how often it is maintained.”

A news release from the port and the water institute said the port is expected to need “97 million cubic yards of disposal capacity for dredged material during the next 20 years.” But only 5 million cubic yards were identified, according to a 2010 study by the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The capacity we have today is equal to one Superdome,” Rase said. “With the expected 97 million cubic yards, we would need 21 Superdomes.”

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