By Heidi Zemach for Seward City News
A massive dredge called “Big Bob,” mounted atop one of two adjacent barges, with a tugboat, the Norman O pushing from behind, keeping them in place, has begun operating recently in the Seward Small Boat Harbor. The area dubbed L-1 is the area between the fuel dock and Z float, protected by the extended breakwater. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has contracted with West Coast Construction, on behalf of the city, to dredge that, and other areas. They’re currently dredging 3,146 cubic yards of gravel, loading it onto a barge, offloading it, and trucking it to Seward Marine Industrial Center for upland disposal. At last week’s Seward City Council meeting, the council agreed to contract to dredge out an additional $161,600 of material, not present in the Corps’ 2009 survey. That survey estimated that they needed to dredge 2,250 cubic yards. The remaining portion of dredge material, which does not contain remnants of fuel present, will be deposited in various other locations in the boat harbor and Resurrection Bay that have previously been identified.
The dredging is quite an interesting sight to observe. “Big Bob,” named after the construction company owner’s father, towers over everything in sight, making even the large Coastal Village ships docked at Z float, and the mountain range beyond appear small. It is the largest dredge operating in the U.S., according to one of the army corps workers on the scene. It’s a powerful machine that digs down deep. You can hear the gravely sounds when its arm is clawing beneath the surface, and when its arm and bucket rises from the surface of the water, it makes quite a splash, accompanied by circular wave action, as it begins draining water from its claw. The orange crane arm then slowly swings around, and dumps the dark gravel material into a waiting barge. A skiff operator, dwarfed by the barges and crane, stands by in his little skiff, and makes sure that the boom that surrounds the dredging activity remains in place.