Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Olympia Port Begins First Dredging Project in More Than 30 Years

Maintenance dredging of the marine terminal vessel berths and the Swantown Boatworks haulout area began at the Port of Olympia in late November and is expected to continue for several weeks.

The port is dredging the 20-foot area adjacent to the marine terminal pier to its authorized depth of minus 42 feet. The port is also dredging areas waterward of the 20-foot strip that are higher than minus 38 feet. The dredge is also expected to remove contaminated sediments from Budd Inlet.

According to the port, it has been more than 30 years since the Budd Inlet areas were dredged, and over time, silt has built up and decreased water depths, causing safety issues for workers and limiting the number of ships the port can safely berth.

“The increased water depths will help ensure safe services to the marine terminal’s international customers and allow Swantown Boatworks to fully serve its local and regional customers,” the port’s environmental programs director, Alexandra Smith, said. “The maintenance dredge also contributes to the removal of contaminated sediments from Budd Inlet.” The project, which has been contracted out to Tacoma-based Orion Marine, is expected to be complete in either January or early February of 2014.

For the marine terminal, the current shallow depths adjacent to the pier mean the ships can’t dock directly at the pier. To move cargo, a device attached to the dock called a “camel” holds the vessel five feet away from the pier. The cargo loading and unloading takes place across the five-foot span, which carries safety risks. The dredge project is expected to remove the safety risks and enable fully loaded ships to utilize all the berths simultaneously. Currently, the port can’t accommodate even two fully loaded vessels at berth.

At low tide, the Boatworks has only eight inches of water depth and therefore must close its haulout facility to customers. The dredge is expected to provide safe depths for the haulout facility and allow it to operate at low tides.

The port says it expects dredging up to 40,000 cubic yards of sediments, with 6,000 cubic yards from the Swantown Boatworks area and the remainder from berths one, two and three. The dredged material will then be transported by truck to an upland disposal facility in Castle Rock, Washington.

Following the removal of the material, a six to nine inch layer of clean sand will cover the exposed berth areas as a safety barrier between the exposed areas and the surface, according to Smith.