LWACO — The never-ending struggle to keep south Pacific County’s maritime link to the Columbia River is again underway. Dredging to deepen the Ilwaco Channel commenced in August.

The dredging is part of $1.2 million received in federal aid funding for channel maintenance announced last spring.

The crucial sediment removal is necessary for keeping the local waterway navigable and retaining access to the Port of Ilwaco for commercial and recreational vessels.

Each dredge scoop removes about 10 yards of sediment at a time, equal to about 9 Toyota Prius.

Each dredge scoop removes about 10 yards of sediment at a time, equal to about 9 Toyota Prius.

Channel condition surveys revealed spots shallower than five feet, which will be deepened to the required 18-foot depths, according to Darrell Jamieson, project manager for J.E. McAmis, a heavy civil marine contractor that’s tasked with doing the heavy digging.

Initial sediment removal started around the jaws of the channel, but has gradually moved further inside the channel in recent weeks.

Using a bucket scoop, the dredge is capable of removing 10 yards of sediment at a time — about 27,000 pounds, or about nine Toyota Priuses.

Darrell Jamieson, project manager for J.E. McAmis, has logged more than 30 years in the dredging industry.

Darrell Jamieson, project manager for J.E. McAmis, has logged more than 30 years in the dredging industry. Jamieson said channel conditions were on par with previous years.

“It’s sand all the way up by Fort Canby then is gradually turns to fine sediment,” Jamieson said during an Aug. 29 boat tour of the dredge work.

Each scoop is unloaded into a “dump scout,” a barge capable of carrying approximately 1,200 yards of sediment to the spoil drop site.

Changing tides, currents and boat traffic complicate channel dredging.

“It’s really sneaky and snaky,” Jamieson said. “It will take the barge everywhere, so we have an assist boat that trails behind it and we leave on slack tides.”

A dredge operator maneuvers a scoop of sediment to an awaiting barge

A dredge operator maneuvers a scoop of sediment to an awaiting barge. GPS-aided dredges have made the task more precise than ever.

During the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci designed the Draga Cavagango, or mud dredge, a simple apparatus that would be a primitive starting point for the technologically advanced dredges of today.

“Today we have GPS and dredge software that shows where the bucket is, the channel — everything,” Jamieson said. “Before, you just dug off of range markers.

Luke Whittaker is a staff writer for Coast River Business Journal and the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or lwhittaker@crbizjournal.com.

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