Dredge begins pumping sand to shore up pilings

By on December 5, 2013

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The dredge Alaska will begin pumping sand to shore up pilings at the Bonner Bridge Saturday morning. (Cody Hart)

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Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. operates the Alaska.

The dredge Alaska will begin pumping sand Saturday morning into an area of erosion that has undermined a cluster of 10 pilings at the Bonner Bridge.

Safety risks from the erosion led to the bridge’s closing on Tuesday.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation and Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. reached an agreement to pump sand from the main navigation channel in Oregon Inlet, a statement from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office said.

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“Once dredging operations are complete, NCDOT crews will then perform additional scans and inspections of the piles to determine the next steps necessary in reopening the bridge,” the statement said.

Depending on the weather and currents, the work is expected to last two days, according the NCDOT.

The dredge has been clearing the inlet’s channel under a $7 million contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which received federal money from Hurricane Sandy relief legislation. The 200-foot dredge can draw up to 50,000 cubic yards of sand a day from the ocean floor.

It has been pumping the sand onto Pea Island.

McCrory declared a state of emergency to expedite permitting for the dredge to pump the sand onto the ocean floor around the pilings, which are in much deeper water and well south of the channel.

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Transportation officials said earlier this week that nine of the 10 pilings in the bent were anchored in less than 20 feet of sand, which is the minimum considered to be safe.

NCDOT has awarded a $1.6 million contract to Carolina Bridge Co. of Orangeburg, S.C. for emergency repairs on the bridge.

Crews will use sandbags and 4-foot-tall concrete A-Jacks around the pilings. They will then fill the perimeter with sandbags. Two more layers will then be added for a total of 10 to 12 feet of protection.

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Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said that it would take two weeks to put equipment and materials in place to start the work.

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