ONLINE UPDATE: Dredge digs with purpose

by Kelly Corbett
Friday, April 25, 2014

The E.W. Ellefsen cutterhead dredge currently pumping sand from Masonboro Inlet onto the south end of Wrightsville Beach operates 24 hours per day.

The Weeks Marine 277.5-foot dredge can dredge 70-feet deep, but usually operates about 30-35 feet underground. Capable of operating at 13,360 total horsepower, the dredge was only using one of four locomotive engines running at about 3,500 horsepower.

A media tour of the dredge showed the work in action Friday, April 25.

About 35 employees work on the dredge in two shifts. Captains work three weeks on and three weeks off.

Captain Jack Dunbar has been a captain for six years and has been working on dredges for 34 years.

In the control room on the top of the dredge, also referred to as the libre room, operator John Soileau was surrounded by five monitors to run gauges and control the swinging of the cables.

“The dredge is kind of like a vacuum,” Soileau said, adding that it normally operates at about 18 feet per second.

Underneath the water, the cutterhead shaped like an egg beater chops through the sand and water, sucking up the mixture that travels through rubber and steel pipes before being placed further north on the shore.

Rolando Serrano, project engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pointed to a survey map, showing how the sand will be moved from the southern tip of Wrightsville Beach.

He said surveys of this size can take one to two days to complete.

The total length of sand spread will be 8,500 feet once the project is complete, said Bob Keistler, corps project manager.

The full story will be printed Thursday, May 1.


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