The Corps, in partnership with The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is improving the main shipping channels in the port by deepening them to 50 feet, allowing more efficient access to the world’s largest oceangoing ships.
The proposed drilling and blasting in the Kill Van Kull will allow ships to more easily navigate through the narrow waterway going to and coming from the New York Container Terminal in Staten Island and the Port Elizabeth Marine Terminal in Newark. This is one more part of a multi-billion-dollar effort to make the channel more navigable for ships that use ports in New Jersey and New York.
Residents of Bayonne, particularly those south of Third Street between Humphrey and Ingham Avenues, and those near Richmond Terrace between Port Richmond and Heberton Avenues, Staten Island, New York, were encouraged to attend the April meeting in Bayonne to learn more details of the project.
Blasting in the Kill Van Kull and Newark Bay is nothing new, local officials said. It’s part of a process of deepening shipping lanes, which requires breaking up bedrock similar to the stone that makes up the Palisades cliffs. Deepening the channel has been an ongoing process since the early 1990s, perhaps explaining why so few people showed up to hear the details of the Corps’ latest endeavor.
The good news is that this latest round of blasting will cover a smaller area than in the past. The bad news is that it will be closer to homes along First Street than in prior episodes, creating a greater risk of damage due to vibrations.
“This is relatively speaking a small, two-acre area in the Kill Van Kull that needs to be removed as part of a navigational need that pilots alerted us to,” said Bryce Wisemiller, a project manager with the Corps.
The pilots, who steer container ships in and out of the port facilities on the far side of the Bayonne Bridge, said a ledge of stone forces them to steer away from Bayonne toward Staten Island on the far side of the Kill Van Kull. This might not be a problem if one ship is sailing in one direction, Wisemiller said.
But it can be a problem when two ships going in opposite directions are trying to pass each other. With larger ships due to arrive in the area in 2015, the sliver of stone jutting out from the Bayonne side could pose an even bigger obstacle. He said there are two other areas in the harbor that are being deepened under the same contract, but neither will affect the City of Bayonne. The Bayonne deepening is part of a $68 million contract covering all three areas.
The cropping of rock is part of bedrock that runs along the shore of New York Harbor and the Hudson River, around Bergen Point and under the Kill Van Kull.
Deepening of the channel started in 1989 and extended to 1994, seeking to increase the below- surface clearance from 35 feet to 45 feet. Bergen Point area was deepened to 50 feet in the 2003-2004 period, and the area where the Corps is looking to work now was deepened to 50 feet in the 2004-2006 period.
But the deepening effort then was designed for ships smaller than the ones that are using the harbor now.
Wisemiller said this has become a navigational concern because ships have to make a hard turn away from the cropping when coming from and going to the port facilities beyond the Bayonne Bridge.
The project will require the dredging of about 50,000 cubic yards of material, of which about 15,000 cubic yards is bedrock. The area is about 1,000 feet long, he said, and by removing the slight angle, ships could more easily navigate toward the Bayonne Bridge area.
“We would be working closer to the Bayonne shore than we have at previous times,” Wisemiller said.
The project would widen the navigation channel by about 100 feet, and the bedrock will have to be drilled and blasted in order to remove it.
“There will be a dredging operation, drilling and blasting and dredging,” Wisemiller said. “The overall time period will be about a month with about a two-week drilling-and-blasting period in the middle of that.”
“This is relatively speaking a small, two-acre area in the Kill Van Kull.” -- Bryce Wisemiller
The dredging is expected to start at the end of May, and the drilling and blasting in mid-June, he said. There could be two or three blasts per day, depending on how the operation goes. “If the weather is favorable, it could be less than two weeks,” Wisemiler said.
He said the Corps monitors the noise-vibration levels extensively. The blasting company is also required to provide monitoring, and the Corps has hired EarthWorks LLC to perform independent field monitoring.
Earthworks will also review the company seismography readings and other documents to make sure that the sound and vibrations are within acceptable levels. Portable seismographs are used to measure and record the ground vibrations and air pressure.
Blasting done off the coast of Bayonne in Newark Bay in 2010 drew a number of complaints.
While residents within 1,500 feet of the blast area have been notified—as many as 500 families—most of the potential impacts will be felt in lower Bayonne up to about Third Street since the blast area is on the Bayonne side of the Kill Van Kull.
Blasting is occurring only during daylight hours and not before 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m., though drilling may be conducted at various times. Work will not be done on Sundays.
Wisemiller said it is very important that residents within a 1,500-foot radius of the blast area get pre-blast property inspections. Notices were mailed to all the homes, and the contractor in charge of the blasting operations—Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company—is required to place notices on doorknobs of residences and businesses notifying them of their option for pre-inspections.
The Corps can also be reached at (201) 339-6470 to schedule an appointment.
Inspections will detail the conditions of a property prior to the blasting so that if there are changes later, they can be dealt with.
“While there will be less blasting needed this time than in the past, the area is closer to the shore,” Wisemiller said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.