Historic dredging at Penn's Landing

February 28, 2008 5:27:47 PM PST
A major project is in progress at Penns Landing and it is the first of its kind in ten years! It is the dredging of the Penn's Landing Basin. The project will increase the depth of the Penn's Landing Basin from two feet to ten feet.

Penn's Landing Corporation is working with Weeks Marine, Incorporated, of Camden.

30,000 cubic yards of silt is being removed to create a channel down the middle of the basin.

The bucket on a giant clamshell crane will bring up the equivalent of about a dump-truck load of silt.

The dripping buckets of silt are emptied onto a scow which is a holding barge.

"Right now we're dredging with the tide. We actually need flotation to load our scow, so we can get in and out on high tide," Jim Smith, dredge captain, said.

The center point of the project is the Independence Seaport Museum's two historic ships: the Spanish American War Cruiser, the Olympia, and the WWII submarine, Becuna.

The size and power of the dredging equipment could do serious damage if they're not carefully controlled.

"The Olympia was built in 1892, so she's a little delicate. They've been extremely careful in the work they're doing," Jesse Lebovics of Historic Ships Management said.

The dredging project will allow sailboats and powerboats with larger drafts to access the area. The new director of the Independence Seaport Museum, Lori Dillard, is excited about what else the project will bring to Penn's Landing.

"We're going to have a traditional boat festival June 14 and 15, where we're going to have craft on the water and have a whole festival event for the public," Dillard said.

The hope is the project will boost tourism at the Independence Seaport Museum.

Phase two of the project begins this fall. The dredging cannot happen between March 15 and June 1, because that is the time when the fish are spawning.