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NEWS | Nov. 14, 2017

Harbor Post 45 deepening project and transportation costs

By U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey S. Palazzini, commander Charleston District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The month of November brings cooler weather, lots of football watching, thoughts of the upcoming holidays and the fast approaching gift giving season. Who wouldn’t like a new car, the latest flat screen television or a new set of tires just to mention a few on my “wish list”? These are expensive items and it got me thinking about what goes into the cost of these goods.

After becoming the Charleston District Commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I quickly learned about how transportation costs affect the price of goods coming in and out of our port because of the District’s number one priority, the Charleston Harbor Post 45 deepening project.

Post 45 has been a priority for the District since 2010 when federal funds were first appropriated to address transportation inefficiencies in the federal channel. Currently, some of the larger container ships are not able to call on our port 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  They must wait on a high tide and can’t come in fully loaded, all driving transportation costs up with those costs being passed onto the consumer.

This project was the first large navigation study to be completed under the Corps’ new streamlined civil works planning process and will serve as a role model for deep draft navigation projects throughout the Corps. The new process allowed us to save more than $7 million and five years while still providing greater efficiencies and safety to waterborne commerce in our harbor. 

A project delivery team composed of experts from across the country worked tirelessly the last several years bringing this project to fruition. They developed a plan which is beneficial to the nation and strikes the right balance of economic development and environmental acceptability.  That plan was authorized for construction in December 2016.

Building upon these accomplishments, we awarded two contracts in fall 2017 to begin work on the entrance channel. The District awarded its largest contract ever for $213 million to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company.  In accordance with this contract, and the $47 million contract awarded in September, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company provided us with a schedule which places the first dredge in the entrance channel in February in compliance with the environmental requirements of the project. The schedule maintains the aggressive results we have achieved on the project thus far.

A variety of dredges will be used in the 20 mile long entrance channel and some of the material will be used to create nine artificial reefs plus a berm around the ocean dredged material disposal site offshore.

The entrance channel dredging work will be the most time consuming construction requirement of the deepening project due to the high quantity of material and presence of limestone.

We have not yet finalized the timeline or awarded the contracts for the dredging of the remaining inner harbor areas of the Charleston Harbor federal channel. The work for these reaches is planned concurrently with the entrance channel dredging and, once complete, will result in an operational depth of 52 feet in Charleston Harbor.

We anticipate the construction of the entire project to take somewhere between 40-76 months. The wide window for completion is because there are many factors influencing the date such as funding, weather, mechanical issues and dredge availability.  We will continue to work hard to deliver this extremely important project in the most efficient manner possible.

So the next time you are thinking about your gift list or purchasing something at the Base Exchange, remember the professional Department of the Army civilians working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who are doing their part to support commerce in the state of South Carolina.