NOAA Docks 5 & 6 are silting up a lot faster than predicted. Chronic dredging is expensive – Port seeking alternative solutions.
The Port of Newport Board of Commissioners has hired a consulting firm to figure out what can be done to slow down the silting-up of the river bottom underneath NOAA Headquarters Docks 5 and 6, which lie at the eastern most portion of the dock complex.
An initial consultants report (not the one hired this week) predicted that silting would pile up at about an inch a year, so the port could get by with dredging under the docks maybe once every ten years. But according to a report to the commission, the siltation rate has turned out to be much, much faster. In fact, it’s silting up so fast that dredging, which is very expensive, would be required yearly.
The commission hired Coast and Harbor Engineering to come up with alternatives that might include deflecting the silt away from the dock area. There are silt curtains, underwater deflection shields and other devices that can be deployed to divert silt-laden river currents away from the docks. In the meantime, NOAA says Docks 5 and 6 are either at or beyond a margin of error for their ships to use the two docks. So figuring something out is a big priority down there – not only to ensure the continued use of both docks but also not to cause problem somewhere else if the sediment settles out at another location.