Norfolk District to begin Dismal Swamp Canal dredging

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District navigation crew of the ND-6 crane barge assists in rehabilitation of the dredged material upland placement site on the feeder ditch at the Dismal Swamp Canal, Virginia, Feb. 13, 2019. The district’s navigation and survey section supports new work and maintenance construction of civil works projects such as navigation and beach nourishment and protection. (U.S. Army photo by Andria Allmond)

CHESAPEAKE, Va. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to begin Dismal Swamp Canal dredging early next week.

This is roughly a year ahead of schedule due to lingering impacts from Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Norfolk District will manage the maintenance project as an effort to eliminate shoaling all while enhancing safe navigation and local commercial interests.

Officials plan to have the work completed by the beginning of April.

The Dismal Swamp Canal receives water from a feeder ditch connected to Lake Drummond and runs from Deep Creek in Chesapeake to South Mills, North Carolina. Material often collects at the intersection of the canal and ditch entrance.

“That decreases the maintained depth to less than the 6 feet required for safe navigation,” said Joel Scussel, Norfolk District’s Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway project manager.

“The Dismal Swamp Canal is authorized to a depth of 9 feet, but we maintain to a depth of 6 feet because of limited commercial traffic there. The area where we are dredging has a high shoaling rate, so we are actually dredging to 10 feet. That way, we don’t end up dredging every year.”

Officials say dredging was last done in that area in 2015 and that it’s normally carried out on a five-year cycle, but Hurricane Matthew deposited a large amount of material in the canal and that pushed the time frame up.

“We try to do dredging now due to the minimum canal traffic this time of year,” Scussel said. “The vessels that use the canal do have an economic impact to Elizabeth City, North Carolina.”

The $845,000 contract was awarded to Petersen Companies Inc. out of Minocqua, Wisconsin. That includes nearly $300,000 in upland placement-site repairs, which started at the end of January.

Scussel said the maintenance dredging will remove about 30,000 cubic yards of shoaling from the Dismal Swamp Canal.

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