Gulfport ship channel getting much needed dredging - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport ship channel getting much needed dredging

Interim Port Director Matthew Wypyski Interim Port Director Matthew Wypyski
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

For years, the Gulfport ship channel at the state port of Gulfport has been getting more and more shallow. Because full maintenance dredging has not been done since 2009, silt has choked off a good portion of the channel.

The depth of the Gulfport ship channel is down to 28 feet in many areas, and that means trouble for larger ships that come in.  

"Our three carriers, Crowley, Dole, and Chiquita, they require in the neighborhood of about 28 feet, but we also bring in a lot of material for Dupont. Those vessels are in the 30 to 32 foot range," said Interim Port Director Matthew Wypyski. 

The mini floating cities you see in the Mississippi Sound are working to change that.  

"We have about $2.4 million the Army Corp has allocated to this project  and what they're doing is they're dredging down to about 36 to 38 feet over the span of about 260 feet wide." Wypyski said. 

While this current dredging project is fixing a four mile stretch of the Gulfport ship channel, there's 15 miles in all and that also needs to be dredged. For that, Wypyski said they need help from Washington.  

"We're working very hard to get the entire 15 miles back to its authorized depth of 36 feet. We're working with the governor's office, MDA, and with our delegation up in Washington," Wypyski said. 

Port officials have bigger dreams though: an eventual channel depth of 45 feet, which could accommodate most of the larger ships traveling the seas.  

"We are in the early stages of trying to determine the feasibility study that would lead to reconnaissance," Wypyski said.  "I'm cautiously optimistic it will happen, but it involves a long time and certainly a lot of funding once everything gets approved. But we are making some progress." 

The current project should be complete in about two more weeks. Dredging the remaining 11 miles of the channel would cost an additional $6 million. Port officials hope to hear back on that funding request in the next few weeks.

Copyright 2012 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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