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The Memphis District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on July 10, 2019, awarded a $15 million contract to construct a new dragline machine to Seatrax, Inc., of Houston, Texas. Procurement of this new machine represents Phase I of a project to replace the current dragline machine. Workers will eventually mount the machine on a barge, allowing it to work from the river. A separate contract for the barge is set to open bids on Sept. 11, 2019.
The dragline machine is an integral part of the Memphis District Bank Grading Unit (BGU) operation. The BGU works in tandem with the Clearing and Snagging Unit (CSU), which first removes vegetation and other material from the riverbank. Then, the BGU steps in using the dragline machine and a fleet of bulldozers to smooth the river bank to a specific grade or angle. The work of the BGU and CSU prepare the riverbank for the Vicksburg District to, next, lay articulate concrete mattress to protect and stabilize the riverbank. Protection and stabilization of the riverbanks are important to the flood control and navigation components of the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project.
Construction of the current dragline machine began in 1949 and it entered service around 1951. The massive bucket on the end of the dragline can hold 15 cubic yards of soil and silt, and can move an average of 10,000 cubic yards of this material each workday.
“We expect the new machine to be capable of moving 20,000 cubic yards per workday, doubling the current production rate,” said Jake Storz, project manager for the BGU replacement contracts.
Storz went on to explain that breakdowns in the roughly 70-year-old legacy dragline machine have become more frequent and replacement parts are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Some parts have to be custom made which significantly increases down time for the unit.
Storz said a diverse group of offices and organizations are working to bring this unique piece of custom-built equipment into service.
“We have Operations, Contracting, Construction, Channel Improvement, Regional Channel Improvement, and the (USACE) Marine Design Center all working on this,” he said. “It’s very much a team effort.”
Storz said the goal is to have the new dragline machine in service in fiscal year 2022.
Modernization of the BGU and “Armor One,” a new Mat Sinking Unit (MSU), now under development by the Corps of Engineers, will help recapitalize the river revetment program. Construction of the current MSU took place in 1946. Among its many assets, the new MSU promises be more efficient and cost effective, and provide a safer working environment for its crew.