Dredging Pioneer William G. Gahagan Dies at 89
William G. Gahagan, P.E. passed away on November 14, 2019, one month shy of his 90th birthday.
Gahagan was a dedicated lifelong pioneer and leader in the dredging industry. An engineer by schooling and trade, his family started Gahagan Overseas Construction Company (later the Gahagan Dredging Corporation), becoming a leading international dredging contractor from its origin in 1898. Gahagan Dredging developed and pioneered the use of spider barges and hydraulic unloaders.
Gahagan later headed-up Gahagan Dredging where the company was responsible for the dredging of the Apollo Launch Site in Florida, and Newark (NJ), Kennedy (NY), and Logan (Boston) Airports. Gahagan Dredging was known for its innovations in developing equipment and dredging techniques for difficult projects. After a sea change in the industry, Gahagan became a consultant to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock in 1972.
While working at Gahagan Dredging, Gahagan met J. Franklin “Frank” Bryant, a veteran of the dredging industry. Bryant later started Bryant Engineering and was contacted by Gahagan in 1974 for a project at Jupiter Island, Florida – a project notable as the first use of a hydraulic cutterhead dredge working in the ocean to renourish a beach. This led to the formation of Gahagan & Bryant Associates, Inc. (GBA) in 1975. It also established a lifelong bond between the two men and a shared belief that to properly design a dredging program, the designing engineers must have “hands-on” field experience in performance of dredging contract work.
Following that philosophy, GBA grew into the largest firm in the U.S. specializing in dredging and marine-related projects. Clients soon learned that GBA reports were concise, clear and well-focused. A GBA report states, “this is the issue, this is the solution,” and the solutions work. GBA employees are always encouraged to learn the industry and hone their capabilities in the field, collaborating with owner and contractor.
GBA’s success was driven by Gahagan’s ability to provide sound, practical solutions to complicated projects. Once GBA was anchored as an established firm, he shifted his focus to mentoring future leaders in the industry. His dedication to the growth and development of engineers is unparalleled; his honorable and selfless contribution to the dredging industry is anchored in history. Within GBA and throughout the dredging industry, many C-level executives, engineers, surveyors and consultants have positively benefited from Gahagan’s unselfish sharing of knowledge – an inspiration to the best of the best.
William G. Gahagan’s lifetime work may imitated, but it won’t be duplicated. Well done Bill. We toll the ship’s bell 89-times for Bill Gahagan to mark the end of his final watch — now rest in peace. God Bless.
Source: Dredging Contractors of America
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.