Dredging is for the Birds….and Ships
February 5, 2015
Port of Oakland: Dredging is for the Birds….and Ships
400,000 cubic yards of SF Bay floor mud used to reclaim nearby marsh
Oakland, CA – Feb. 5, 2015 – Ships hate mud. Birds, on the other hand, love it. The Port of Oakland said today a four-month-long dredging project has addressed both ends of the spectrum.
According to the Port, 400,000 cubic yards of San Francisco Bay mud have been extracted from an adjacent ship channel since August. All of the material was deposited on a former wetland bordering nearby Suisun Bay. The upshot: ships won’t get stuck in the mud. But birds along the Pacific Flyway may get a refreshed habitat.
“Dredging is not glamorous,” said Chris Chan, the Port of Oakland’s Engineering Director. “But it’s essential if we’re going to keep bringing big ships into Oakland, and gratifying when it’s environmentally sustainable.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished dredging 870 acres of Bay floor last month. The work cleaned up a 50-foot-deep channel leading massive container ships into 50-foot-deep berths at the Port. That’s the desired clearance for thousand-foot-long vessels that could carry up to 14,000 20-foot cargo containers.
The Corps’ challenge: finding beneficial use of the residue -- river-borne sediment and shifting sands that sweep in with the tide. The answer in this case: the Montezuma Wetlands Restoration Project. Barges transported all of the dredged material 52 nautical miles northeast to this 2,400-acre marsh on Suisun Bay. Under regulations governing the Port, only 80% must actually be reclaimed.
Privately owned Montezuma Wetlands LLC is overseeing a project to restore the marsh with 1.75 million cubic yards of fill. The goal is to restore the site’s original surface height. The Montezuma Wetlands have subsided 10 feet since being diked and drained a century ago. With a fresh topcoat, the wetlands should provide a more inviting habitat for shorebirds and other wildlife.
Dredging to keep navigational channels clear is an annual task at the Port of Oakland. Federal funds cover most of the cost that in 2015 will reach $21 million. The San Francisco Bay Area’s congressional delegation, led by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), has been a longtime supporter of federal funding for Port dredging.
About the Port of Oakland
The Port of Oakland oversees the Oakland seaport and Oakland International Airport. The Port's jurisdiction includes 20 miles of waterfront from the Bay Bridge through Oakland International Airport. The Oakland seaport is the fifth busiest container port in the U.S.; Oakland International Airport is the second largest San Francisco Bay Area airport offering over 300 daily passenger and cargo flights; and the Port’s real estate includes commercial developments such as Jack London Square and hundreds of acres of public parks and conservation areas. Together, through Port operations and those of its tenants and users, the Port supports more than 73,000 jobs in the region and nearly 827,000 jobs across the United States. The Port of Oakland was established in 1927 and is an independent department of the City of Oakland.
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