The Memphis District's Dredge Hurley returned to its home port, Ensley Engineer Yard, in Memphis Harbor, on Jan. 13, 2023, after finishing a record-breaking 273-day season, which began Apr. 26, 2022.
In eight and a half months, the 36-person crew dredged 14.5 million cubic yards of sediment, which is the most the Dredge Hurley has ever removed in a single season.
Late 2022 saw severe drought conditions in the Mississippi River Basin. On Oct. 17, 2022, the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee, measured at an all-time low of -10.76 feet. By this time, the Hurley had already dredged several additional assignments, so low water conditions placed even more of a demand on their already increasingly busy schedule.
River levels impacted navigation in many ways, including an increased need for dredging in reaches of the river that haven’t needed it since the early 2000s.
"The Hurley was called upon to assist where and as needed," Navigation Branch Chief Matt Young said.
And assist they did. By Oct. 20, 2022, the Dredge Hurley had removed just under 12.7 million cubic yards of sediment. With almost three months to go, this amount surpassed amounts dredged during the 2021-2022 season.
The Hurley dredged 28 locations this season, with 12 added due to low river levels. All dredged sites were in support of the Memphis, Vicksburg, St. Louis, and New Orleans Districts.
The furthest north the Hurley traveled to dredge was on the Upper Mississippi River Mile 113 at Cherokee Landing, 848 river miles north of the farthest south location dredged, at Sardine Point on the Lower Mississippi River Mile 219.
Now finished with the 2022-2023 season, after sweating through a scorching hot summer and severe drought conditions, halting operations only for a damaging snowstorm, the Dredge Hurley is docked at the Ensley Engineer Yard stringout where skilled trades workers perform routine maintenance and repairs, getting it ready for the next departure.
"Even while repairs are performed, it's a regional asset and therefore important that the Hurley remain postured and ready to execute dredging operations, at a minimum within 72 hours, or at any given time should river conditions warrant it," Young said. "Many thanks to the Operations Division personnel who maintain and support the Dredge Hurley and crew. Their efforts ensure the Hurley crew can safely perform this vital mission, even in high demand times."
Scheduled work includes repairing the ladder and ladder pump, dustpan, the three main generators, and Z Drives. Ensley Engineer Yard personnel perform much of this specialized work.
Maintaining the Mississippi River through reliable dredging operations is a top priority as it is one of the busiest waterways in the United States. Of its 4,267 miles of navigable channels (1/3 of U.S. inland waterways) 681 million tons of cargo move on the system each year with cost savings in transportation at $12.5 billion.