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U.S. Army Corps Braces N.Y. for Future Storms

The job involves placing about 6.3 million cu. yd. of sand in the designated area, resulted in a beach 100 ft. wide and 10 ft. above sea level.

Tue September 24, 2013 - Northeast Edition
Mary Reed

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun the process of restoring the coastal storm risk barrier at Rockaway Beach in Queens, N.Y., in order to correct extensive coastal erosion caused by Superstorm Sandy and in the process is not only improving storm security but also enhancing the beach itself for the benefit of its users.

The project is part of the Corps’ plans to restore Sandy-affected coastal storm risk reduction projects by placement of more than 26 million cu. yd. (20 million cu m) of sand, including more than 7 million cu. yd. (5.3 million cu m) in New York state. Areas in which the Corps will be working on this task include Coney Island and sites in southern Long Island.

The Corps of Engineers constructed Rockaway Beach in the 1970s as a joint project with New York City and the state. The job, involving placing about 6.3 million cu. yd. (48 million cu m) of sand in the designated area, resulted in a beach 100 ft. (30.5 m) wide, 10 ft. (3 m) above sea level. Since that time the beach has been “renourished” a number of times, most recently in 2004 when the project was federally authorized and funded. Subsequent renourishments have been smaller projects, which were tied directly to maintenance dredging of inlets nearby.

The Rockaway Beach project involves two contracts for placement of a total of some 3.5 million cu. yd. (2.7 million cu m) of sand.

The first contract was awarded in June 2013 by the Corps of Engineers’ New York District to prime contractor Weeks Marine Inc. (WMI). Based in Cranford, N.J., the company is one of the largest marine contractors in the United States as well as the second largest dredging contractor. It will self-perform the $10 million job, placing some 593,000 cu. yd. (453,381 cu m) or about 1 million tons (907,185 t) of sand. and using subcontractors only for hydrographic surveying support.

Weeks Marine will use its newest large 30 in. (76 cm) ocean certified cutter suction pipeline dredge, the C.R. McCaskill.

Named after the company’s equipment and technical executive Charles R. McCaskill, the dredge was christened just a year ago and will be undertaking her second job. The dredge has 18,000 installed hp (13,417 kW) and sleeps more than 50 crew members.

In her first job, the McCaskill moved more than 8 million cu. yd. (6 million cu m) of Mississippi River sand and silt from the Head-of-Passes area to land and marsh creation sites approximately 6 mi. (9.6 km) away.

“We are looking forward to the Rockaway Beach project. The McCaskill, her management and crew performed well beyond our expectations for her inaugural job,” said J. Stephen Chatry, senior vice president of Weeks’ dredging division, “and we are working for the same results in New York.”

The dredge will move beach quality sand from the East Rockaway Inlet. Heavy “yellow” equipment on shore will shape the beach to contractually specified dimensions. The Rockaway Beach job is a “beneficial use” project because the Inlet is being maintained for navigation and the byproduct, sand, is being put to use to protect the shoreline.

“There is nothing particularly unusual about this project,” said Chatry. “Due to federal budget constraints, however, there are fewer of these ’win-win’ projects funded than could be the case.”

Weeks Marine began work in July and expects to complete the job before the end of the year. The company anticipates having approximately 50 employees on site at any given time.

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has repeatedly discussed how North Atlantic region beaches and communities were much better protected when those communities were protected by extensive beach and dune systems designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Statutory authority is required for all projects carried out by the Corps of Engineers, and the current job at Rockaway Beach is authorized under two acts.

The first, the pre-Sandy Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies Act, authorizes them to repair existing projects after major events such as Superstorm Sandy, and permits them to restore the area in question to its pre-storm condition.

The second, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, also known as the Sandy Relief Bill, authorizes the Corps to restore such projects severely impacted by the hurricane to their original design. According to the Corps, this often means placement of much more sand during restoration efforts on the coast.

The second Rockaway Beach contract for this project, not yet awarded, will see placement of almost 3 million cu. yd. (2.3 million cu m) of sand dredged from an offshore borrow area. This second project is expected to finish this year or early next.

About the Company

Weeks Marine Inc. was founded in 1919 as Weeks Stevedoring. In 1934, it was incorporated under its present name. While the company’s roots are in New York City, it is now headquartered in Cranford, N.J., and its dredging division is located in Covington, La., near New Orleans.

Weeks Marine specializes in projects such as the current one at Rockaway Beach and has completed numerous coastal and shore protection projects. The company is currently finishing up the restoration of Virginia Beach and neighboring Sandbridge Beach, Va., and will be undertaking similar projects in Atlantic City and Cape May, N.J., this summer.

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