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ICW dredging to boost marine economy

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By Suzette Cook

John Adams approaches the solution to keeping up with the needs of the marine industry like any mathematically minded professional would: Deeper water equals bigger boats equals more jobs.

Adams, senior adviser for Taylor Engineering based in Jacksonville, is responsible for designing the upcoming project to deepen the Intracoastal Waterway in Ft. Lauderdale from the 17th Street Bridge to Sunrise Boulevard.

On Nov. 4, the day before the opening of the 56th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, representatives of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, the Florida Inland Navigation District, the city of Fort Lauderdale and Broward County gathered at Lauderdale Marina and announced the award of the $17 million contract to dredge the ICW to Cashman Dredging of Quincy, Mass.

“The challenge is that the vessels are getting bigger and we need more depth,” Adams said. “Without dredging, eventually you would lose that commerce.”

Dredging, which is slated to begin in March, will take the ICW to 15-17 feet,  Adams said. Parts of the waterway currently measure as low as 13-14 feet.

“The worst thing that can ever happen to a captain is if he bumps the bottom one time,” said Mark Crosley, executive director of FIND. “His owner will say, ‘don’t you ever go back into there. We’re not going to do a $20,000 prop repair again.’ ”

Cashman Dredging is the same company that deepened the Dania Cut-off Canal two years ago.

“They are very familiar with the area and the marine traffic,” Crosley said. “And they are going to work with the community to make sure there is as little disruption as possible.”

According to Crosley, the dredging, by contract, will happen during daylight, and sections will be dredged discontinuously to accommodate expected traffic and use of the ICW.

“We’ll be working the north end and coming back down to the south,” he said. “ You might not see them work from one end and go to the other. We will work different areas of the project.”

Phil Purcell, MIASF executive director, said he expects the dredging project to have a similar impact on Fort Lauderdale that the Dania Cut-Off dredging project had on Dania Beach and the Fort  Lauderdale area.

As both sail and motor yachts are built larger, water depths become more vital to safe navigation. PHOTO/SUZETTE COOK

As both sail and motor yachts are built larger, water depths become more vital to safe navigation. PHOTO/SUZETTE COOK

“A $7 million dredge returned a $23 million economic benefit over about 16 months,” Purcell said. “It’s going to take us to the land of opportunity.”

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler said he also agrees that the marine industry will thrive as a result of the deepening project.

“There is just a level of excitement in the community,” he said. “ It’s boat show week. This is what makes Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale. This is a sustainable industry.”

Water depth limits vessels larger than about 160 feet from traveling to some marinas along the ICW.

“The fastest growing segment of the boating industry is boats over 160 feet,” Crosley said. “These boats can go anywhere in the world. Cuba is opening up, the Bahamas. They prefer to be here,” he said about Fort Lauderdale. “Their crews are here, their captains are here. They want to be here.”

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Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

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