November 14, 2023 - Tetra Tech, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTEK), a leading provider of high-end consulting and engineering services, announced today that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Rock Island District, Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, selected Tetra Tech for a $33 million task order to provide architectural and engineering (A-E) services to design a new 1,200-foot navigation lock on the Illinois River.
Tetra Tech was awarded the task order through the USACE Great Lakes and Ohio River Division’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) Contract. Tetra Tech scientists, consultants, and engineers will design the new lock chamber to improve efficiency, reliability, and safety for navigation traffic along the river. The new lock will be twice as long as the existing lock system which will reduce wait times by more than seventy percent, accommodate larger vessels, and improve mariner safety. The project is a top priority of the USACE Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program.
"The USACE Rock Island District maintains navigable waterways that are essential to the transportation of goods throughout the Midwest," said Dan Batrack, Tetra Tech Chairman and CEO. "Tetra Tech looks forward to using our Leading with Science® approach to design systems that improve critical infrastructure, support public safety, and enhance the resilience and reliability of U.S. waterborne transportation supply chains."
About Tetra Tech
Tetra Tech is a leading provider of high-end consulting and engineering services for projects worldwide. With 27,000 employees working together, Tetra Tech provides clear solutions to complex problems in water, environment, sustainable infrastructure, renewable energy, and international development. We are Leading with Science® to provide sustainable and resilient solutions for our clients. For more information about Tetra Tech, please visit tetratech.com or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
It’s already hot and humid on Saturday, and it’s only eight a.m. in Tampa, Florida. Channelside Drive is bumper-to-bumper traffic. Even though the temperature hasn’t changed much in the eight years since I lived there, the area has changed dramatically.
According to the U.S. Census, the population percent change from April 1, 2022, to July 1, 2022, has increased by 3.5%. Tampa is awake from its sleepy potential, and it’s evident that the demands of the port have grown as well.
I parked my car and grabbed my gear because I needed to see it for myself: traffic, families, lovers, and friends all moving to the hum of suitcases laden with vacation wear and waiting to embark on a cruise ship to some far away location. In the distance, I observed container ships and other commercial vessels hunkered in the port for the weekend.
Tampa’s rapid growth has occurred over several years, and I am not the only one that has noticed. Legislators, commercial entities, local government, federal agencies, and non-governmental agencies alike acknowledge the growth with the momentum of federal dollars and a shared cost.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and its partners are in the feasibility phase of deepening Tampa Harbor. This project will impact the area in several ways. It will stimulate economic growth, ensure safe, reliable transportation, and provide material to create preservation, conservation, and recreational projects in the region.
“Port Tampa Bay is Florida’s largest port in cargo tonnage and land area. It serves as a major cruise port and services a diverse mix of bulk, break-bulk, container commodities, and energy products that serve central Florida. The port contributes over $17 billion in economic impact supporting more than 85,000 jobs. The Tampa Harbor Federal Navigation Channel was last deepened in the 1980s.
The project itself consists of a channel from the Gulf of Mexico to port of Tampa and Tampa. Its features include the entrance channel from the Gulf of Mexico to Hillsborough Bay. At Hillsborough Bay, the channel splits into two legs, with one continuing west to Port Tampa and the other east to Gadsden Point. The west channel continues to Port Tampa and ends in a turning basin. The west channel to Gadsden Point continues north through Hillsborough Bay towards the upper channels and includes Alafia River and Big Bend. The project depth varies from 45 feet in the entrance channel at the Egmont Bar Channel to 32 feet in the Alafia River. The length of the project is about 67 miles including 3.6 miles in the Alafia River. Port Tampa Bay has more cargo tonnage than all other Florida ports combined.” (Report Summary – Tampa Harbor Navigation Improvement Study.)
I say all this so that a picture forms in your head of the scope and scale of the proposed work, as well as how much and how quickly Tampa has grown in the past several years and the future potential for continued growth in this region.
Now, ask yourself how this growth has and will impact the region’s cultural and natural resources.
Let’s first look at the area’s rich cultural history.
The Port of Tampa Bay has a rich cultural history that started with the area’s indigenous people around 3000 years ago. The location was valuable for trade and rich in natural resources.
The territory then passed through the hands of the Spanish multiple times, acquired by the British, and eventually, became part of the United States.
Fast-forward to the 19th century, when the merchants of the Tampa Bay area lobbied for federal support to deepen the harbor’s channels. In 1905, the U.S. Congress authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the channel to a depth of 20-feet.
This was the first recorded dredging by USACE and the first time local, state, federal, and private industry worked together to build the Port of Tampa Bay.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers works with their local, state, federal, and nongovernmental partners to realize projects that deliver the most economically progressive outcomes within cultural and environmental guidelines. We leverage strategies within our projects that aim to create adaptable and sustainable systems,” says USACE Ecologist and Navigation Team Lead, Aubree Hershorin, –
Projects like the deepening of Tampa Harbor go through a rigorous planning process and before they can be authorized. The process includes five distinct phases:
2. Alternative Formulation and Analysis,
3. a Feasibility -Level analysis,
4. Final Report Release- State and Agency Review, and
5. The Chiefs Report.
USACE also implements a six-step planning process in the following order:
1. Identify problems, opportunities, objectives, constraints,
2. Inventory and forecast conditions,
3. Formulate alternative plans,
4. Evaluate alternative plans,
5. Compare alternative plans, and
6. Select a plan.
Fact Sheet: Tampa Harbor Federal Navigation Improvement Study (oclc.org)
Let us remember the Principles and Guidelines identified in the Water Resources Act 1986 that established four accounts for evaluating alternatives: the National Economic Development account, the Regional Economic Development account, Other Social Effects, and Environmental Quality. Benefits derived from all four of these accounts are considered when choosing a plan.
There are meetings with partners and stakeholders, discussions with the public, and the opportunity for the public to comment on the project, all before a single grain of sediment is placed.
These processes are our way of tackling challenging questions and finding solutions that provide a positive impact. Past projects have helped the USACE and its partners discover how dredge material is a valuable resource and how it can be repurposed.
The deepening of the channel will result in the dredging of an estimated amount of up to 23-million cubic yards, equivalent to 7,034 Olympic swimming pools filled with sediment Now that’s a lot of material!
“Knowing the potential amount and type of sediment helps the team determine the placement site and its benefits to that particular site. For example, some of the study’s sediment may be used to restore Egmont Key. The restoration of the island will benefit shorebird and sea turtle habitat.” Says Hershorin
One unintended benefit of using dredged material at Dredge Material Management Areas (DMMA) 2-D and 3-D is the valuable shorebird habitat they provide. The Jacksonville District built the sites between 1978 and 1982 while deepening Tampa Harbor to 43 feet. The islands have provided the Port of Tampa Bay and USACE with places to store dredge material. Dependent on dredge material cycles on either island, it also provides habit for shorebird populations to flourish that is protected from human disturbances.
A small team of engineers apply sunscreen, put on life vests, and gather their backpacks to board a small craft provided by our partners, the National Audubon Society. The captain of the vessel, Jeff Liechty, is also a National Audubon coastal biologist at Florida Coastal Sanctuaries and our guide through the site. At high noon, the crew took off from the boat dock across the Bay and made their way to DMMA 3-D. Along the way, I could see how prolific the bird population is: pelicans, roseate spoonbills, and oystercatchers are just a few of the many bird species that have found a haven on the resource-rich island .
Upon reaching the island, birds lined the shore and circled in the air above. As we carefully navigated our way up the hill to inspect the site following Liechty’s path, nestling birds were tucked away in their hiding spots nearby.
Liechty says that Audubon, USACE, and the Port of Tampa Bay have maintained a longstanding partnership. The collaboration serves the dual purpose of efficiently managing dredged material to ensure efficient navigation depths for vessels accessing the port, while simultaneously providing bird habitat.
“DMMA 3-D island is a special place in the bay. It provides a variety of habitats including uplands for nesting, interior lagoons, and foraging areas. The island also provides refuge from the disturbances found on our beaches,“ Liechty emphasized.
Because of collaborative efforts between USACE, Audubon, Port Tampa Bay, and the partners that are part of the Tampa Bay Migratory Bird Protection Committee, biologists and volunteers have been able to monitor and collect data on the birds that use DMMA 3-D.
Liechty says tens of thousands of birds come to the island throughout the year.
As USACE and its partners work through the improvement study, they have many factors to consider. There are adverse and beneficial effects on cultural and natural resources. There’s sea level rise, wind, tidal changes, boat wakes, and the weight and depth of cargo and cruise ships. The variables that this team must consider and work through are numerous.
Armed with data collected over time, an information-rich report, an environmental impact statement, and a steady movement to incorporate nature-based solutions, the Tampa Harbor Navigation Improvement Study makes its way through the processes needed to make the best decisions not only for this moment but for the next 50 years. Right now, the team has reached the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) milestone.
Since you, the reader, made it this far, you might wonder if there are adverse impacts that could result from this type of project such as increased boat traffic, the disruption of the wildlife population and recreational activities. Why not leave the channel the way it is? What is the cost of doing nothing? The reason is that Tampa is growing and the demand for goods by consumers is still going strong by any means, whether improvements to the infrastructure take place or not.
According to Mckinsey & Company’s article, “The Consumer sector in 2030: Trends and questions to consider”, Dec.1, 2015, “Globally,middle-class spending will almost triple by 2030 and that more than 75 percent of the world’s population will own a mobile phone .”
Not moving forward and planning for a sustainable future leaves the area and its resources at risk.
Hershorin says, “This plan is unique. While some of the dredging components of the Tentatively Selected Plan are traditional, we were able to incorporate smarter methods for deepening while avoiding impacts to hardbottom environment and opportunities for beneficially using the dredged materials to create numerous types of habitat in several locations in Tampa Bay.”
The Tampa Harbor Navigation Improvement Study aligns itself with a nature-based approach in that it will reduce our environmental footprint by enhancing sustainability, conserving fuel, and repurposing precious resources. USACE is moving toward delivering economic, environmental, and social benefits through collaboration with our local, state and federal partners.
The cost of investing in our future and the channel’s future is priceless.
Many Thanks to: Aubree Hershorin, Bryan Merrill, Graceann Sparkman, and Jon Simon Suarez
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Motor Vessel (MV) PUGET ‘s mission is all about keeping other vessels safe.
The debris recovery vessel patrols Puget Sound inland waters, collecting debris and obstructions that may damage vessels. For their job, the crew of five uses an onboard crane, chainsaws, and other equipment for their dangerous job of snagging debris out of the frigid waters.
Not surprisingly, they must apply risk management practices, to ensure employees minimize risking injury, damage or harm as they execute tasks and serve the nation.
It is the district’s “Taking Care of People” approach that secured Seattle District’s PUGET crew the Army Risk Management Award. Director of Army Safety and U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center Commander Brig. Gen. Jonathan Byrom presented the crew with their award at the USACE-owned and operated Lake Washington Ship Canal and Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (Locks), Sept. 21.
“The fact that you had the wisdom to slow down and not cause an accident that would have caused significant loss of time and resources, must be recognized,” said Byrom. “If we can get soldiers across the entire Army to have this mindset, it would change our safety culture.”
Byrom said he intends to share the PUGET crew’s example of applying deliberate risk management practices across the Army.
USACE Northwestern Division Commander Brig. Gen. Geoff Van Epps attended the ceremony and shared the Army safety director’s views.
“The PUGET crew absolutely exemplified the right approach to safety,” said Van Epps. “The team was not only deliberate and methodical in their approach to risk management, but they respected and took the Army Corps’ mission seriously. We always advocate the right way to do things.”
For the crew, the award confirmed their obligation to keep safety at the forefront of everything they do.
“Safety is always our No. 1 priority in navigation and on the PUGET,” said Captain Stephen “Skipp” Green. “We encourage this mindset from the top down, and it’s how I believe we caught this issue. I always put my trust in what the crane operator’s decision for the lift is, whether it can or can’t be accomplished.”
Feb. 14, 2023, was like any other workday. The crew’s task, to use its mounted crane to lift two, 6-ton small lock floats from the small lock at the Locks, was part of their standard operations. In fact, the crew, part of the district’s Waterway Maintenance Unit (WMU), had completed this maneuver using the same equipment and configuration countless times before with no issues.
For Small Craft Operator Luis Hernandez, completing this critical lift for the first time on Valentine’s Day presented the ideal opportunity to focus on risk management.
“As the person sitting in the seat, the crane operator is ultimately responsible for pre-planning during all lifts including routine ones and making on-the-spot decisions during daily operations,” said Green. “They ensure the crew’s safety. The decisions they make are critical and always changing. Routine is what gets everyone in trouble. Attention to detail is key.”
Original load charts show the critical lift is under 75 percent of the crane's rated load. Concerned the new load charts might be more restrictive, Green, Hernandez, Crane Operator Jordan St. John, Section Marine Machinery Mechanic Joshua Deming, Small Craft Operator Silad On, and Locks Maintenance Lead John Ryan, reassessed the lift rather than assuming it was still safe.
With this approach, and after taking cursory measurements based on the tentative center location, they determined the lift might not be within specifications according to the new load charts. After Hernandez completed the critical lift plan, the team confirmed the lift may be at risk with the estimated radius and rigging.
“Luis ‘really went to town’ digging into all the resources available to him,” said Green. “He looked through the old load charts and noticed that while it was being performed safely and nothing had changed with the crane or on the vessel, they weren’t ‘within specs’ of our current load charts…That’s when the conversations started.”
They began collaborating with the Marine Design Center, the Corps of Engineers' center of expertise and experience in developing and applying innovative strategies and technologies for naval architecture and marine engineering. This led to the crew updating its load charts, fully aware that any updates could affect the crane’s lift.
By testing their theory in the real world on a previously successful routine task, and applying deliberate risk management principles, the crew reduced the risk of potential costly accidents and future catastrophes.
“The team made the unpopular decision to go against the norm and complete a task they’d routinely done, but in a more methodical and intentional way, to prevent a mishap,” said WMU Chief Bradford Schultz II. “Their course of action empowered the WMU to set a precedent of applying risk management techniques now, to avoid disasters later.”
The Army Safety Awards Program recognizes, promotes, and motivates success in accident prevention through risk management, by recognizing safety accomplishments of individuals and units in the field.
“Fostering a safety-conscious environment, that includes everyone being a part of that process, leads to an amazing team,” said Green. “The PUGET provides an invaluable service to the Army Corps, the American public and the Pacific Northwest.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District is working to delay upriver progression of salt water from the Gulf of Mexico by augmenting the sill initially constructed in July 2023.
Construction is underway to increase the existing underwater sill from a depth of -55 feet to a depth of -30 feet. A 620-foot-wide navigation lane will be kept to a depth of -55 feet to ensure deep-draft shipping continues along the nation’s busiest inland waterway.
USACE initially constructed the underwater barrier sill in July 2023 to create an artificial basin to delay the ingress of salt water beyond river mile 64 above Head of Passes. As a result of the river’s prolonged extreme low-flow rate, the underwater sill was overtopped Sept. 20, 2023.
“As a result of continued falling conditions, this existing sill was overtopped and the toe of the saltwater wedge has reached River Mile 69, near the community of Jesuit Bend,” said Col. Cullen Jones, USACE New Orleans District commander. “Our modeling indicates that by augmenting the existing sill, we can support state and local preparedness and response efforts by delaying further upriver progression of the salt water by approximately 10 to 15 days.”
In addition to the sill augmentation, USACE is preparing to transport fresh water to impacted areas. During previous low-water events, such as 1988 and 2012, barging was used to transport fresh water to treatment facilities downriver of the saltwater toe.
“The Corps is securing water barges that will support impacted water treatment facilities by transporting water collected from portions of the river that do not have salinity readings,” said Jones. “This water can then be combined with water at the municipal facility to create a mixture that is safe for treatment.”
The intrusion of salt water into the river is a naturally occurring phenomenon because the bottom of the riverbed between Natchez, Miss., and the Gulf of Mexico is below sea level. Denser salt water moves upriver along the bottom of the river beneath the less dense fresh water flowing downstream. Under normal conditions, the downstream flow of the river prevents significant upriver progression of the salt water. However, in times of extreme low volume water flow, such as what has been occurring this year, unimpeded salt water can travel upriver and threaten municipal drinking water and industrial water supplies. An underwater sill was constructed on four previous occasions in 1988, 1999, 2012 and last year in 2022.
“As new information becomes available, we will reevaluate the projected movement of the salt water and share this information with our partners and the public for their preparedness, readiness, and response,” said Jones.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Galveston District, plays a key role in America's economy by keeping waterways open for navigation and commerce.
The Galveston District is directly responsible for monitoring more than 1,000 miles of channel along the Texas Gulf Coast.
This navigation mission sometimes requires getting help from some friends in the USACE Wilmington District (SAW).
A 10-person crew of USACE civilians brought the Multipurpose Vessel (MPV) Brandy Station to Galveston this week.
The MPV Brandy Station will work on missions previously completed by the MPV Snell. The Snell worked in the Galveston District from 2017 to 2023.The Brandy Station made it from Wilmington, N.C. to Galveston in seven days. Talon Smith is the captain of the ship, and the crew works 16 days on, then takes 12 days off.
The new MPV has similar mission capabilities as the Snell, to include marine construction, navigation hazard removal, and clamshell and hydraulic dredging for small critical shoals in federal channels and adjacent non-federal channels. The crew performs clamshell dredging by attaching a bucket to the onboard crane. Hydraulic dredging uses pumps and pipes to move dredge material.
“We have some dredging work we’re going to be doing,” said Joen Petersen, SAW Floating Plant Chief, aboard the Brandy Station, July 24, 2023.
The MPV is also outfitted with pumps for small dredge jobs where material can be pumped 1,500 to 2,000 feet.
Additionally, the Brandy Station can support maintenance and storm relief for U.S. facilities and territories and maritime transport.
“The vessel itself has a worldwide capability; about a 10,000-mile range,” Petersen said.“We carry just under 90,000 gallons of fuel. We have the capability to make our own water if we need to,” Petersen said. “The deck itself will carry 350 tons. The crane on board right now is a 135-ton crane and it has about a 200-foot reach. It replaced the old crane on here which had a 35-ton capability with an 80-foot maximum reach.
”To put it in perspective, the Snell would fit on the deck of the Brandy Station, Petersen said.Upcoming projects for the Brandy Station and its’ crew include mooring maintenance and construction at the Brazos and Colorado River Locks.
“We’ll go down there and put the new buoys in,” Petersen said. “We’ll drive the subsurface anchors down to put all those in.”The Brandy Station can also repair lock walls damaged by barge traffic, build docks and drive sheet piles. Sheet piles are steel sheets with interlocking edges which can be used to recreate retaining walls.
The Brandy Station can also install navigation buoys, Petersen said.Using the crane to lift and drop a large steel beam like a hammer, the crew pounds anchors 40 feet down into the ocean or river floor, with two-and-a-half-inch chain attached to the anchor. Then the crew pulls on the chain to make sure the anchor stays put. After the pull test, mooring buoys are attached which are then used by tugs and barges.
The Brandy Station can pound spuds (steel cylinder anchors) which enables the vessel to do construction work, Petersen said.
The ship also has a front landing ramp, so the crane can be offloaded with relative ease for work from land, Petersen said.
The Brandy Station can also help with disaster relief, Petersen said. The vessel was used to transport telephone poles to Puerto Rico in 2017 for Hurricane Maria relief efforts.
Onboard desalination equipment can produce 2,000 gallons or 16,000 bottles of water a day.
The deck can be configured for use as a container ship, which can carry up to 30 shipping containers.