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Baltimore’s Federal Channel Fully Restored 76 Days After Dali Hit Bridge

Baltimore channel
Final removal operations were completed and the channel has been fully restored as of June 10 (USACE)

Published Jun 10, 2024 7:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

The federal navigation channel for Baltimore harbor was fully restored as of late on Monday, June 10, just 76 days after the Dali knocked down the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The US Army Corp of Engineers had been waiting for the final results from underwater surveys before confirming that the full 700-foot wide and 50-foot-deep channel was restored.

“We are proud of the unified efforts that fully reopened the Federal Channel to port operations,” said Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, commanding general of USACE. “The partnerships that endured through this response made this pivotal mission successful.”

They reported that the last major piece of wreckage, a 90-ton piece of steel was wrestled from the mud last Friday, June 7. It took 45 minutes for the Chesapeake 1000 floating crane and its hydraulic grabber to pull the mangled steel section from the mud. 

Reopening of the channel however required a further detailed process of sweeping the area with sonar, LIDAR, and a magnetometer, to investigate any high spots. They needed to ensure that there were no residual hazards to navigation left protruding from the mud of the Patapsco River. The survey of the Federal Channel certified today, June 10, that the riverbed was safe for transit. 

The Port of Baltimore reports the temporary channels are expected to remain in operation until the end of June while remaining water salvage operations continue. Also tug escorts which had been mandatory are now optional at the discretion of the pilot working the vessels in and out of the harbor. 

 

Last large piece of steel wrestled from the river on June 7 (USACE)

 

It marked 72 days since the recovery work began on March 30 and 76 days after the Dali allided with the bridge. According to the Unified Command, the process involved the removal of about 50,000 tons of bridge wreckage from the Patapsco River. At its highest point, the Unified Command, consisting of six agencies, led the response efforts among about 56 federal, state, and local agencies, represented by 1,587 individual responders. Additionally, about 500 specialists from around the world operated a fleet of 18 barges, 22 tugboats, 13 floating cranes, 10 excavators, and four survey boats.

Surveying and removal of steel at and below the 50-foot mud-line will continue to ensure future dredging operations are not impacted. Follow-on work in the channel from this point on however is part of routine maintenance. The wreckage will continue to be transported to Sparrows Point for follow-on processing. 

The focus has already shifted to the replacement efforts with Maryland's Transportation Authority having issued a first request for proposals in the process to develop a new bridge. The deadline is June 24 with media reports saying a contractor will be selected this summer, and the final design will be selected within the next year. The bridge is expected to be completed by the fall of 2028 at a cost of $1.7 billion.