Dredging the First Coast
by: Davis Yancy Clegg
In some form or fashion, Earth’s bodies of water are always being manipulated by external influences. In some way, our planets’ bodies of water are always in motion. Water cascades down mountains, and pours into oceans. Wind pushes along the top of the water, first creating a ripple. Over time, those ripples eventually become waves as they reach the shore. Gravity moves rainwater after it has splashed down on your driveway. Debris in the path of moving water shapes routes along which water flows.
Though it may not always register with our thoughts as we take in sights, the force behind water is among the most powerful on Earth. Depending on the amount of force carried with water, it can move any small rocks, trees, boats, your home, or topple a cruise ship. Evading the naked eye, the back and forth motion of the ocean surf is constantly moving sediment from the beach, out to sea. This affect is compounded in the presence of volatile environmental conditions. Hurricanes, for example, cause far more erosion to coastlines. These circular storms intensify the strength and direction of ocean currents, changing the shape of the coastline overnight. Larger waves, generated by the storm, wash further up the beach. In many cases, taking everything from sand to pieces of buildings with them as they return out to sea. As nature takes its’ course, there eventually becomes the need to restore the shore to previous conditions as best we can. With Intracoastal Waterways having such heavy traffic, the safety of all passengers and their vessels depend on the consistency of water depth.
Because of climate factors being varied throughout the year, sediment building along the ocean floor – as it relates to shipping lanes – must be monitored at all times. During a hurricane, the sediment removed from land is re-deposited in riverbeds and along the ocean floor. This process can move quickly if seasonal conditions allow, causing the need for sediment removal to arise. In many cases, the need can become an urgent one. The rise in water levels can have a negative impact on the ability of ships to meet supply and demand freight requirements. For example, one inch of water depth loss means a freighter will have to forfeit carrying 160,000 pounds of its’ ideal freight load. Many of the most common products purchased by Americans are still made in foreign countries, or “across the pond.” Therefore, a staggering number of products we use in our daily lives make their way to us via shipping lanes. To name one, the iPhone is manufactured in China. Over 100,000,000 smartphone users in the United States are carrying Apples’ iPhone. That number equates to roughly 40% of all smartphone users. Now, an iPhone, depending on which model, weighs around 5 ounces. A brand new iPhone will run a consumer upwards of $600. When the arithmetic is completed, all indications tell us the retail value of freight aboard plummets some 307 million dollars. That’s a problem! To reverse this trend, trained dredging professionals come to the coastlines’ rescue. Removing sediment from the ocean floor one section at a time, the dredgers make way restoring the coastline, and the shipping lanes slowly return to proper depth. Our waterways are one of many driving forces behind the global economy. Understanding how nature affects the massive number of well-traveled shipping lanes – and the global economy impacted as a result – is key to both understanding and appreciating the efforts made to keep our daily grinds in balance.
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