Brice Develops Innovative Dredge

Arulaq Provides Aid to Lower 48 Port

Storyknife, September/October 2020 edition

The vessel Captain John Graham carries the Arulaq dredge plant. The blue piping represents most of the dredge works. The dredge pushes out 60,000 gallons of mud per minute.

Brice subsidiaries have handled several infrastructure projects in the Yukon Kuskokwim Region this year. Also as a result of successful bidding, Brice made progress on addressing a big river delta problem in the Lower 48.

The port of Morgan City in Louisiana depends on the Atchafalaya River for the transportation of goods, but vessel traffic has been curtailed by buildup of sand and silt from upriver. The port and the town suffer when local farmers and manufacturers aren’t able to use the port to ship their goods.

Brice Civil Constructors President Jon McVay explained in an interview how his company and Brice Marine have been working to solve this problem.

The Brice companies are known for problem solving. What was your idea to help the port?

Using standard dredging technology to dredge millions of cubic yards of lighter silts and clays (known as fluff) is costly overkill. Instead, we proposed using agitation dredging, which involves pumping these lighter materials back in the water to be carried out to sea by river currents, rather than loading the material onto a barge and dumping it at sea. We believed we could eliminate the typical tug-and-barge setup by placing the dredge plant on an off-shore vessel. This requires fewer crew members, also a cost savings.

What was difficult about this project?

Our concept had never been done before. Our team invested hundreds of hours developing the concept and pitching it to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Port of Morgan City, and the dredging industry. At first, they thought we were crazy, but appreciated that we looked at the problem sufficiently to offer a potential solution. Our design and fabrication took eight months longer than anticipated. Our team didn’t give up, and I feel very fortunate that Calista gave us sufficient latitude to prove it out.

How is the project going now?

This year, we pumped over 50 million cubic yards of sediment. That would fill Yankee Stadium almost 200 times. In order to pass the real test, we have to make money for the Shareholder. To date, I have been extremely happy with our returns and believe our team should be proud of contributions to the corporate bottom line.

What else might Calista Shareholders find interesting about this project?

We named our dredge plant the Arulaq, which means to stir or agitate in Yup’ik. The amount of silt dredged by the Arulaq this year would fill more than 1 million 20-foot Conex containers. It would take over 35,000 barge trips to deliver that material to one of the YK villages. That is a lot of mud!

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