the Kill Van Kull Security Zone
Vessel Traffic Service announced on VHF 13 that all tugs and barges longer than 400′ may not meet or overtake other vessels in the KV. Curious, I called VTS (718.354.4088).
“Yes. No meeting, no passing from KV buoy 1 to KV buoy 5 for all vessels longer than 400′ and deep draft vessels.” The three buoys have been moved 600′ to the north of their original positions last week, and it became mandatory for large vessels to observe one-way traffic until further notice.
The Kill van Kull was once at a natural depth of 15-18′, and home to rich beds of oysters, clams, and fishes, surrounded by salt marshlands. Today, dredged to 50′ below mean low water, it is a major shipping channel, making it possible to bring in imported goods, cars, fuel, chemicals, orange juice, and to ship out our recyclables.
The Army Corps of Engineers, with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has been working on the Harbor Deepening Project since the 1980’s. They have had to contend with a bottom made of soft and stiff clays, red shale, serpentine rock, glacial till, and granite. Different kinds of dredges are used for the different materials.
What is happening now is quite special: We’re in the final deepening phase off St. George, the dredgers have encountered bedrock, and a unique use of equipment is at play (oh, I mean ‘work’)…
“That cutter-head begs to serve as inspiration for a horror movie.” – Tugster
The hydraulic dredge, the Illinois was described by Bill as a “floating factory;” it is huge.
Hydraulic dredges usually use a cutting head to dislodge the sediment which is immediately suctioned and pumped through a pipeline to an offsite settling area, often several thousand feet away.
However, working boats in the area have noticed an absence of the pipeline. If there is no dredge spoil, then there must be no dredging. That cutter-head seems to be drilling away at pure bedrock (instead of blasting). Dredge 54 comes along behind it to dig it up. A support barge is there to replace the hard teeth on the cutter head.
What has been the observed result of the dredging of NYHarbor?
° Working mariners have noticed that the current has increased, and that high and low tides have been affected. Those Eldridge tide predictions are no longer accurate in places.
° Docking seems to be more dangerous, but if you dock only at slackwater, you might have several hours to wait, which would cost more money.
Tugster, who caught amazing photos of the machines and vessels at work, poses two questions:
1. what would happen if dredging activities ceased? Not sure how fast it fills in here, but several points along the east side of North River silt in as quickly as about 2′ a year. The way things are set up now, our harbor cannot afford not to dredge. (And, dredging is expensive! that’s fine if your project enjoys federal, state, or city funding, but what if you are a mom&pop little shipyard? you are between bedrock and a hard place: you cannot afford to dredge, but you cannot afford not to!)
…alternatively, if we stopped dredging, the kill would become a kill again (creek in dutch), oysters, clams and mussels would be sold alongside hotdogs, and you’d have to take a train to Baltimore to get those plastic lawn chairs.
2. “How come the mainstream media pays no attention to these activities?” Really cannot fathom, because it is fascinating. Go and look for yourself: the very best deal of the harbor, the Staten Island Ferries, will take you past the dredging site–for free!
Thank you, Bill & Will!
Oops, this just in: Tugster reports that the Illinois is not there anymore. I’m very sorry, they were never vigilant about their AIS.
You will still see the Dredge 54, but this is how the Illinois looked from one of Tugster’s photos: