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Ship Traffic Restored to Key Baltimore Canal

Wed February 27, 2013 - Northeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) project was recently necessary to restore ship traffic in a major artery serving the port of Baltimore, Md.

The 14-mi. (22.5 km) Chesapeake and Delaware Canal was built in the 1820s and connects the bay to the Delaware River. It reportedly carries more than 40 percent of the port’s shipping traffic, including roll-on and roll-off cargo, cars, fuel, and coal. When shoaling emerged, emergency dredging was necessary.

The project began on Dec. 15, 2012, and was set to be complete by press time. Dragging and surveying is still under way.

The full dollar amount of the project is $8.9 million. According to Tim Kelly, Army Corps’ project manager for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, money for the dredging itself, more than $7 million of the total, came from the Philadelphia District’s operations and maintenance budget for the canal. The money for the disposal of the deposits came from the Baltimore District of the Army Corps.

“The Baltimore District used Poplar Island construction funds to place the material onto the Poplar Island Environmental Restoration Project,” he said.

The project was awarded to the Great Lakes Dredging and Dock Company LLC. The contract called for the dredging of 721,000 cu. yds. (551,244 cu m) of material from the southern approach channels of the C & D Canal.

“The project was necessary because shoaling of the canal channels restricted the authorized depth of 35 feet to 31 feet,” Kelly said. “Due to the draft restrictions, ships that would normally use the canal for transit to and from the Port of Baltimore were either diverted or had to take the route around the Delmarva Peninsula, adding almost 300 miles to the transit.”

Placement of the dredged material onto Poplar Island proved to be challenging.

“This is the first time that material from the canal was taken to the environmental restoration project, so we needed to have approval from the state of Maryland and the USACE,” Kelly said. “Authorization to deposit material from the C & D Canal to Poplar Island needed to be approved in a very short amount of time. The Philadelphia District, Baltimore District, and the Maryland Port Administration worked very closely to get the needed approvals in a very short time.”

No subcontractors were required for the project. A total of 100 men worked on the job, using two dredges, six scows and tugs, and one off-loader at Poplar Island.

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