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Dredging Project Has the ’Wright Stuff’

Wed February 09, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Maria M. Lameiras

The Jacksonville, FL- based M Operating Company and its Virginia-based subcontractor Wright Dredging Co., recently completed the $1.6-million annual maintenance dredging project for the U.S. Navy at its Kings Bay Submarine Base near Kingsland, GA.

A.N. “Mike” Michelis, president of The M Operating Company, said the government-bid project entails dredging the accumulation of silt and debris from the Trident submarine access channels, ship channels and along the docks at the Kings Bay facility, which is located at the eastern Georgia-Florida border.

The three miles of channels being dredged begin in deep water and continue into the Naval base. The channels fill with silt and debris from the tides over the course of the year and must be dredged annually in order for Navy vessels to navigate into the Navy facility.

Michelis said his crew uses a 48.3-centimeter (19 in.) hydraulic pipeline dredge, the dredge Stuart, which is mounted on and in a .61-meter by 35.- meter by 2.4-meter (2 ft. by 115 ft. by 8 ft.) barge, which is towed by tugboat from job to job. Michelis said the dredge, which he purchased from a company that went out of business several years ago, was custom built in 1964.

Michelis said his crew mobilized July 2 and traveled to Kings Bay where it took three weeks to set up the operation. The crew then performed the dredging of a portion of the job, which had reached a crisis point for the Navy, due to excessive siltation in the channels.

“The material had built up so much along one of the docks and channels in one area, that we removed 49,812 cubic yards of material from that area, then 90,000 yards of material from a second area,” Michelis said.

To remove the material, the dredge moves along the channels, sucking up thousands of cubic yards of water and debris and pumps it through the dredge mechanism. The material is then pumped through a pipeline to a spoiler area, or a large dammed area where the water is allowed to settle to remove the sediment before pumping the clear water back out into the ocean, Michelis said.

After completing the initial emergency dredging work, Michelis then moved his crew to Savannah, for other jobs and contracted with Windsor, VA-based Wright Dredging to bring in the dredge Enterprise, a 45.7-centimeter (18 in.) custom-built dredge, to complete the work.

Unlike the dredge Stuart, the dredge Enterprise is a self-propelled vessel with crew’s quarters aboard, Michelis said. Michelis’ crew stays on land and takes a ferry to the dredge Stuart each day. Michelis supervises his own crew and the project manager for Wright Dredging on the Kings Bay project is Al Gore.

The dredges operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in three shifts. The dredge Stuart operates with a total crew of 36 men and the dredge Stuart operates with a crew of about 40, Michelis said.

The original bid for the job was to move 474,028 cubic meters of silt out of the channels, but Michelis said the contract may vary depending on the amount of material removed, which he estimates at 535,193 to 573,421 cubic meters (700,000 to 750,000 cu. yds.) of material.

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