Every season Capts. Donald and Natalie Hannon navigate segments of the 1,100-mile Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Virginia to Florida. The combination of natural inland waterways and dredged channels allows yacht owners to visit marinas, sites and towns while captains can avoid occasional hazards of the open ocean.
“For 20 or more years, most all my career, we go up north in the summer and back during the winter,” Donald Hannon said from the yacht’s winter home in Florida. “Although offshore is easier, a lot of owners like the stops. When we travel inside, there are stops people like to make, like Coinjock [North Carolina], it’s a must-do.”
The ICW is just one part of the variety of vital waterways that comprise navigation arteries for boats. Although managed by different entities, all work toward the same goal: to keep these waters navigable.
Several dredging projects that affect megayachts are under way or on the schedule, according to Brad Pickel, executive director of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association (AIWA), whose offices are in Beaufort, S.C.
ICW dredging in Palm Beach County is ongoing adjacent to yacht marine facilities including Rybovich and Viking. The $2.5 million deepening project is managed by the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND). Executive Director Mark Crosley said projects like this one continue to be important for the thriving industry.
“We spent $7 million in Dania and afterward could attribute $14 million in business,” Crosley said of dredging the Dania Cut-off Canal several years ago. “The numbers are not too far off on this project, also.”
Channel depth in Palm Beach was 10 feet and will be deepened to 15 feet, with a 2-foot over-dredge, Crosley said.
“We are going above and beyond what Congress has authorized,” he said. “We are recognizing needs into the foreseeable future.”
The project, which began in October, was set back a few months when the dredge hit intermittent coquina limestone. The contractor expects deepening to be complete in time for the Palm Beach International Boat Show in mid-March.
“We are beefing up the equipment and changing the dredge teeth out,” Crosley said. “We expect that once we’re out of the rock, we will hit sand. It added a couple of months to the project, but it is nothing too dramatic.”
This adds cost and has slowed completion, but other than that, the hydraulically dredged section is progressing as planned, Crosley said. The cutter head cuts, the water and slurry go through a pipeline to be deposited on site, and then clean water drains out to the north part of Peanut Island, property located in the middle of the waterway and owned by FIND.
“There is no contamination, no turbidity, it’s just cutting through,” Crosley said.
Other dredge projects also under way include St. Augustine at Matanzas Inlet (work to begin late summer or fall), Breach Inlet north of Charleston, S.C. (expected to be finished in January 2016) and south of McClellanville, S.C (dredging to begin in late January).
“There is no Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway dredging scheduled for Georgia this year,” AIWA’s Pickel said.
Marinas often take advantage of the dredge companies’ work to deepen waters at their facilities. The city of Riviera Beach Marina and Lockheed Martin will piggyback off the dredge project, Crosley said. Viking Yachts Chairman Robert Healey Sr. said his company’s service center will also dredge.
“We’re building the main artery, then counties and marinas are responsible for their connections,” Crosley said.
Rybovich is currently dredging the outside face dock and expects to be finished by March 1, according to Francois van Well, spokesman for the company.
“Currently, we are in the process of dredging the east-facing outside dock of our marina, which will create an additional 460 feet of deep-draft dock space,” van Well said. “At the same time, we will finalize the dredging of the access to our north yard service facility, five minutes down the road, by end of Spring this year. And then the development of that facility into a large service facility will commence.
“There is also a plan, with permits and approvals already in place, to further expand our marina to add a new basin with docks and electrical shore power capacity to accommodate an additional six 330-foot yachts,” van Well said. “We will start the development of this marina expansion as soon as the demand is there.”
Another project nearby, a $5 million contract for dredging the Port of Palm Beach, was awarded in mid-January with deepening to begin in March. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages this section of water, according to Thomas J. Lundeen, deputy port director/port engineer for the Port of Palm Beach district.
The project, described as maintenance and advanced maintenance dredging, will increase depths to 33 feet in the entrance channel, the southern turning basin and the settling basin, Lundeen said. Once started, the project should be completed in bit more than two months.
Broward County, home to Ft. Lauderdale, is scheduled to start ICW deepening in March, FIND’s Crosley said.
The $20 million project will begin north of Port Everglades to deepen the channel from the existing 10 feet to a 15-foot controlling depth. The nearly three-mile job begins at the 17th Street Causeway Bridge north of the port almost all the way to the Sunrise Boulevard Bridge. The channel will allow better access to Bahia Mar Yachting Center, Hall of Fame Marina, Las Olas Marina, Fort Lauderdale Hilton, The Sails Marina and Pier 66 Marina.
The Broward dredge project will be more conventional than the Palm Beach County project. Instead of piping the dredged material onland, Broward’s dredge equipment will work atop one barge with another barge ferrying the dredged materials to a location on land. Several marinas plan to piggyback off of the deepening, including Pier 66 and Bahia Mar.
As to future projects to keep waterways clear, Crosley said eventually FIND will deepen the waters to the south of the current dredging project in Palm Beach.
“We will look at the south later; it is not on calendar yet and permitting can take four to five years,” he said. “We worked in Broward for 10 years. It gets harder all the time.”
Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at email@example.com.