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The Reconfiguration of Anaheim Bay

Huntington Harbor, located at the northwest corner of Huntington Beach, CA, and developed in the 1960s, is the picturesque site of five man-made islands featuring more than 500 bayfront homes. Bordering Seal and Sunset Beaches, the only passageway in and out of the harbor takes pleasure boaters along a water network that stretches across the southern end of the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, under the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) bridge, and into Anaheim Bay. It is here where boaters may find themselves within 400 ft. of a naval ship loading or unloading ammunitions.

In June 2020, the cutter suction dredge H.R. MORRIS excavates to create the new public navigation channel at Anaheim Bay, CA, while the VALHALLA mechanically dredges with a clamshell bucket on the West Mole in the background.

Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach is a 5,000-acre base responsible for weapons storage, loading, and maintenance for ships of the United States Pacific Fleet. The U.S. Navy has contracted the Manson/Connolly Seal Beach Joint Venture to reconfigure the Anaheim Bay area, which currently services about 40 ships a year. The changes would create a new public boat navigation channel farther from Navy operations, and replace the World War II-era ammunition pier, providing a new berthing location for larger vessels, and moving ammunition loading away from the PCH.

JV Partner Connolly-Pacific steadily placing rock at the end of October 2020 to create the new public navigation channel. Once complete, the final cut will be made to open access to the new passageway.

"There are several parts to this five-year project, but right now, it’s all about getting that public navigation channel open,” says Tommy Stephens, Manson Construction Co. project manager who is heading up the Seal Beach project. The project team has spent the last 11 months juggling the needs of civilian boaters, the U.S. Navy, neighboring Seal Beach and Surfside communities, as well as making way for sea turtles heading to and from the wildlife refuge, the only such refuge on a military installation in the nation.

The new channel follows the lower jetty – often referred to as the East Jetty, cutting through the East Mole – then turns east under the PCH bridge. Creation of the channel has required dredging above and below water, an operation supported by Alex Kolessar, the lead dredge engineer on the project. “There are multiple dredge sites, as well as multiple disposal sites,” Alex explains. “The material has to be transported to specific disposal locations to meet particular fill requirements and meet the project specifications.”

Illustration credit: A. Leal De La Torre—Proposal Sr. Graphic Designer

So far approximately 550,000 cubic yards of material has been excavated from the new channel using the DB VALHALLA, the NJORD, or the VULCAN for mechanical clamshell dredging, and the H.R. MORRIS to perform the cutter suction dredging portions. In total, more than 1 million cubic yards of material has been moved to date.

“The challenging thing is to track all of the material quantities and make sure we have enough material to accomplish all of our goals,” Alex says. In the end, the creation of the new channel and the causeway that will separate the public from the Navy will be beneficial to the public, says Sergio Covarrubias, the engineer supporting scheduling and coordination.

Brief breakdown of the Project Management team, fast facts and figures..

“Right now, anytime a Navy ship comes in, they have to shut down the channel for sometimes up to an hour, meaning anyone wanting to get in or out of Huntington Harbor has to wait,” he says. “Once the new channel is in, that won’t be a problem anymore.”

Sergio streamlines communications between Manson, the client, the joint venture partner and any subcontractors, working with everyone to ensure the project sticks to its timeline.

Joint venture partner Connolly-Pacific is responsible for all rock installation. The job in total requires approximately 820,000 tons of rock. The rock installation is slow and steady work. One of the biggest challenges of the job is coordination with the rock operation and sequencing work to remain efficient.

“Throughout this process, the existing public channel needs to remain open,” Tommy explained. “Public safety and boater awareness has been an everyday focus.”

The day-to-day operations require an artistry in coordination and communication, getting everyone lined up and ready to go, but Tommy says Manson is particularly well-suited for the job. “Manson has been doing this work for over 100 years and most recently completed the Middle Harbor redevelopment which consisted of a very similar operation in Long Beach, CA,” he says.

Working on this project has been unique given the multitude of dynamic tasks both on the dredging and civil construction sides, according to Kristen Ewert, engineer in charge of cost and quality control at Seal Beach. “Thankfully we have great people resources down here in SoCal, and a wealth of experience,” she says.

By the beginning of 2021, Manson plans to remove the current land barrier which will open up the new navigation channel to the public. We will then begin to recycle material recovered in the dredging process to create the physical barrier – the causeway – that will close off naval operations to public access near the channel. The causeway, planned for completion by the end of March 2021, will also serve as a truck path, culminating in a turnaround at the head of the new wharf.

The new pier and reconfigured causeway will provide for berthing of larger ships to safely enter Anaheim Bay for loading and unloading of armament, allowing for increased naval operations at this key military installation.

“It is a good safety measure for the public, but it will also be an easier transit out to the ocean,” Kristen says.

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