Air Freight News

Port of Redwood facing dredging emergency due to USACE miscalculation

The Port of Redwood City says it is currently unable to move vessels fully laden in and out of the Port due to a sediment ‘bump” in its ship channel that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), San Francisco Division failed to expeditiously address by contracting for sufficient dredging capacity, according to Kristine Zortman, Executive Director, Port of Redwood City.

The Port is facing this emergency due to the USACE’s failure to fully contract for the dredging of the Port’s ship channel back to its required 30-foot depth.

The result is ships loading and unloading at the Port are having to use barges or trucks to fully transport cargoes adding additional costs and generating additional truck and tugboat emissions that has been made necessary by USACE’s miscalculations, Zortman says.

Channel Depth Now Only 21 feet

Thie sediment build up, partly caused by late winter storms, silted up the Port’s ship channel to a depth of just 21 feet as reported by the San Francisco Bar Pilots last summer.

Part of the problem, Zortman said, is USACE had given priority to using mud from the Port’s dredging project to support beneficial use in which clean sediment is used for wetlands support but neglected to accord sufficient capacity to also dredge the ship channel to its required 30-foot draft: “What that means for the Port is … I have one tenant who is spending a quarter of a million dollars in November and December because their vessels cannot leave or come into the Port fully burdened (i.e., loaded). I have another tenant who is spending millions of dollars because of all the lightering that they are doing. And then the Corps (USACE) tells me potentially that they are not going to be able to address this channel restriction until March.”

The result Zortman says is: “The impact is passed onto the consumer. The trucking is an impact to both of our regional roadway systems to the community because of additional GHG and emissions. And if the Corps would just look at how they are awarding contracts and or getting them out to bid, they could have known the problem if we had a seat at the table, even if the San Francisco Bar Pilots were involved …that we need to extend this first contract phase to be able to accommodate the channel restrictions. And they didn't. And now they are scrambling internally to try and figure out what to do, because ‘Kristine's not happy’ and it is not that Kristine's not happy, it is just that I have all these financial impacts that tenants are telling me about. And I'm like, ‘Why is the Corps not making navigation and commerce a priority plus the fact that it's a safety concern?”

USACE Response

In response to Zortman’s concerns, Justin Yee, Project Manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, San Francisco District sent Zortman an email explaining the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s challenges: “Totally understandable. I’m sorry about this costly burden facing the Port and customers. I’m pinging everyone in the district to do whatever we can to get the contractor dredging … ASAP. I just had a meeting with all the relevant folks and learned that the March timeline was a proposed schedule submitted by the contractor and we haven’t responded to it yet. I am working with our Construction Branch and Stu (Townsley, Deputy District Engineer for Project Management USACE) to find out what we can do, whether that means a sooner return date … after more dialogue. Future good news – FY24 will be a dredging year, based on our coordination … so all the depth concerns should go away after we complete this year.“

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis

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