News from Patrick Flynn

Port committee update, second edition

As promised, the Port committee’s June 10 meeting focused on dredging (underwater excavation) issues and featured an extensive presentation from local representatives of the US Army Corps of Engineers.  We covered a lot of ground, and here are some highlights:

  • Anchorage’s port is one of the only, if not the only, ports where the Corps is permitted to dredge right up to the dock face where ships berth.  In other locations the Corps dredges shipping channels but not ship berths, and the anomaly appears to stem from the port’s former status as an Army port.
  • The amount of material dredged, and the associated costs, rose dramatically in the middle part of the last decade with a peak in 2004.  No one seems to know the reason(s) why, but in 2009 the amount of material was much lower and closer to historical averages.
  • Annual dredging costs varied greatly over the years and, most recently, hover in the $10 million range.
  • Manson Construction, the contractor performing dredging for the Corps, currently employs a mechanical clamshell dredge and a hydraulic hopper dredge.  The former has a 35-cubic yard bucket that scoops material from the bottom, loads it on the vessel and transports it to a disposal zone for dumping.  The latter behaves more like a vacuum cleaner, sucking material into a hopper (or bin) where it is separated from water and, again, transported to a dumping zone.
  • Hydrographic surveys, which map the subsurface, are used to inform the Corps where dredging is needed.
  • Because of Cook Inlet ice, dredging is impossible during winter months so contracts for the work typically run from May 1 to November 1.  Because of the problems experienced by TOTE this spring the Corps is seeking to start dredging as soon as the Coast Guard lifts ice restrictions in 2011, perhaps as early as March.
  • The aforementioned sedimentation problems were predicted by a model in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and dockside dredging (using a land-based crane) cannot effectively address the issue.
  • Like many federal agencies, the Corps does not change direction (alter their scope of work) quickly.  Because of this, they’ve struggled to keep up with the changing dredging needs created by the port’s expansion project.
  • While the Corps feels they enjoy excellent communications with the port and the dredging industry, they feel communications with MARAD, the federal agency sponsoring the port expansion project, and ICRC, the project contractor, are only fair.
  • TOTE has insisted upon additional dredging in order to accommodate safe operations at their “vacation berth” at the north extension of the port.  This has triggered engineering (by ICRC), environmental and budgetary (by the Corps) reviews to determine whether the dredging can be performed.  It is unclear that, even if the dredging can occur, it will be authorized in time for the current plan to relocate TOTE in 2012.
  • While port officials feel Port MacKenzie is responsible for the growth of the Point MacKenzie shoal, Corps officials have no official opinion.
  • Simply put, if we want to deal with said shoal, we need to come up with at least $500k, and likely $1 million in local (or state) funds.

There was quite a bit more, and the presentation generated quite a few questions.  After that discussion port officials provided information related to the project budget and funding through 2014, and some comparable projects.  Here’s a few more highlights:

  • The total spend for 2010 – 2014 is estimated at $298 million, and would complete the north extension (where TOTE & Horizon steamships would berth until future phases are complete).
  • Fund sources include $25 million annually (2011 – 2014) from various federal sources, $20 million annually (2010 – 2014) from the state capital budget, a total of $40 million in port funds and $35 million in commercial paper (debt).
  • A list of open cell sheet pile dock projects indicate that while there are similarities to the Port of Anchorage project, there are also areas in which the wall height, wall length and upland acreage created make this the largest application of the technology.
  • At this point we do not have a timeline or a budget for the remaining phases of the port expansion project.

I expect my fellow committee members to generate quite a few more questions from the materials we received and those will likely form the agenda for our next meeting, which I expect to take place some time next month.  In the meantime, I welcome your questions and am happy to share more detailed information in which you may have an interest!



This contribution was made on Friday, 11. June 2010 at 22:04 and was published under the category Port committee, Transportation. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. Wow…………..this stuff sounds serious! Pat maybe you could respond to some of the comments from earlier posts too………..this thing is starting to sound like a Discovery Channel program “The Deadliest Dock”………… possible that TOTE could stop coming to Anchorage? I remember when Sealand (now Horizon) was the only carrier; I think a little competition is good…………looking forward to your thoughts on this stuff…………….Moose

    Comment: Moose Johnson – 09. July 2010 @ 9:22 am

  2. Pat,

    $300 million seems like a lot of money for only one part of the dock. Is that for the temporary or vacation home only? Does it include the money they are spending to re-build the new dock? Who is paying for that? How much will the whole dock cost?

    Rudy Lachinski

    Comment: Rudy Lachinski – 14. July 2010 @ 11:21 am

  3. Rudy………they’re giving free tours of the Port; the next one is July 25th and then again on August 1st and August 8th. Get down there and see what $300M buys you! What an opportunity. You may be able to present your questions directly to Port Director? I’m thinking there may be free beer and hot dogs too. I am hoping Pat Flynn will be there too. I want to thank him personally for the great job he’s doing with the blog. If you get any answers to your questions post them…… Randy

    Comment: Randy Mann – 21. July 2010 @ 1:15 pm

  4. What was the date that the Point MacKenzie port was completed? I realize that events are not necessarily linked, but could help us understand the dredging peak in 2004. Thx

    Comment: Bob F – 30. July 2010 @ 12:09 pm

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