Dredgers Work 24/7 to Restore Beach

Fri October 17, 2003 - Southeast Edition
Kerry Lynn Kirby

Caterpillars have taken over a stretch of Gulf Shores, AL’s, white beach.

The heavy equipment is working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to rebuild the depleted beach with sand dredged from nearby Little Lagoon. The $2.8-million beach renourishment project is necessary because of major erosion that has occurred in recent years, said Chuck Hamilton, Gulf Shores’ public works director.

“We’ve had four hurricanes in the last five years,” said Hamilton, explaining that a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico can impact Gulf Shores’ beach even if the storm doesn’t hit the town. “We are pumping sand not only to provide storm protection but also additional recreational benefit.”

The project, which began Sept. 10, involves building the beach up with a 7-ft. (2.1 m) berm and pushing it out approximately 70 ft. (21.3 m) by pumping in approximately 40 cu. yds. (30.6 cu m) of sand per linear foot of beachfront.

The project covers 18,500 ft. (5,600 m) — approximately 3.5 mi. (5.6 km) — of beachfront, Hamilton noted. The job will require moving between 740,000 and 800,000 cu. yds. (570,000 and 610,000 cu m) of sand that has washed over from the beach into Little Lagoon during big storms in recent years.

Scott Carter, co-owner of Daphne, AL-based B.M.C. Dredging Co. Inc./C & C Marine, the main contractor on the project, subcontracted the dredging to Gulf Shores-based Enco Dredging Co. Inc., which has a total of 20 workers divided over two 12-hour shifts.

Carter said he has 12 workers on the beach end of the project, six on each 12-hour shift.

There are four Cats on the job — a D5M LGP crawler dozer, two 322B backhoes and a 938G front-end loader — all purchased at Thompson Tractor Company in Spanish Fort, AL, Carter said.

“I’ve done business with them for years,” said Carter, touting Thompson’s good service and the superior life, maintenance and wear-and-tear of his Caterpillars.

Carter said he purchased the Cat 938G front-end loader, which features a 4.5-yd. (4.1 m) bucket and four-wheel drive, brand-new for this project. With rubber tires that allow it to run on the road or the beach, the 938G, with the bucket to move sand and the fork to haul pipes, is a very versatile piece of equipment, he said.

The project is moving along and should be finished well ahead of the scheduled Dec. 21 completion date, said Carter, noting that his company will get a bonus for each day it is early.

Conversely, there’s a penalty for each day the project runs late, he said, so there’s a real incentive to finish early. Since there have been no major problems, Carter said he expects the job to be done by Nov. 24.

A larger-scale beach renourishment project, which involves pumping in 6 million yds. (5.5 million m) of sand to extend an 11.5 mi. (18.5 km) stretch of beach out an average of 200 ft. (61 m) beyond the current water line, is expected to begin July 2004, said Hamilton.