The dredging of Harbour Town Yacht Basin on Hilton Head Island seems to be proceeding as planned, despite mechanical failures, leaks and pipeline repairs, according to daily inspection reports.
Work began Dec. 4 to unclog the yacht basin. Gull Point and South Beach marinas and Braddock Cove creek inside Sea Pines also will be dredged.
So far, about 56,000 cubic yards of sediment has been removed from the entrance channel and outer basin, according to lead inspector and project manager Larry Setzler of GEL Engineering.
Crews were back at work Friday after a four-day break around Christmas and were clearing the inner basin.
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In total, contractor Orion Marine Construction Inc. plans to pump more than 240,000 cubic yards of sediment to a 100-acre site at the mouth of Calibogue Sound, about a mile from the island's toe and 1.5 miles from Daufuskie Island. The sound's strong currents should flush the sediment out to sea, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"We're hoping to finish the yacht basin by mid-January and move to Braddock Cove creek and go through the same process to dredge South Beach and Gull Point marinas," Setzler said Friday.
The entire project should be completed by early March, according to Setzler and Mark King, president of the Club Group, managing agent for the Harbour Town Boat Slip Owners Association.
Work to clear the yacht basin was to be completed by Christmas, but East Coast storms delayed the arrival of equipment by nearly a week.
Nonetheless, "thus far, everything has gone rather smoothly," King said.
Setzler agreed. But the project has not been without incident. Workers have had to repair pin-hole leaks and replace sections of pipe damaged by debris and riprap that was sucked up by the hydraulic dredge. Extensive cleaning of pumps and the spiral-tipped head that cuts into the marina bottom also was required.
Crews have caught and repaired the leaks quickly, and none of the dredge spoil has accumulated at the leak sites, according to daily reports submitted to the corps.
"Dredging was quickly stopped, and water was pumped until the leaks were located and repaired," Setzler said.
He said the minor mechanical breakdowns and leaks are to be expected on equipment that has been running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Surveys and inspection reports also show that most of the material is being swept out to sea as forecast, except for an isolated 100-square-foot mound about 5 feet high.
Setzler said the mound was likely caused by a large volume of sand nearly 15 to 18 feet high that was removed from a corner of the outer basin, and it will need time to dissipate.
"We will continue to monitor it, and if it does not dissipate with the tide, we will go in and drag a beam to knock it down or spread it out with the dredge," Setzler said.
Dredging operations have been watched closely by regulators, as it's the first private dredging project in the state allowed to dump dredge spoil in inshore waters, according to state officials.
An inspector must be present during all work.
Attempts Friday to reach a representative from the Army Corps of Engineers were unsuccessful.
The project is being privately funded by a group of boat-slip owners and Sea Pines residents, as well as Sea Pines Resort and Gull Point and South Beach marinas.
Dredging at Harbour Town (1:18)
Larry Setzler, lead inspector with GEL Engineering, talks on Friday about the dredging project underway at Harbour Town Yacht Basin.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.