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USACE Announces Full Restoration of Baltimore's Fort McHenry Federal Channel

The Chesapeake 1000 floating crane, equipped with a hydraulic grabber, wrestles a 90-ton piece of residual wreckage from the Fort McHenry Federal Channel.
The Chesapeake 1000 floating crane, equipped with a hydraulic grabber, wrestles a 90-ton piece of residual wreckage from the Fort McHenry Federal Channel.
BALTIMORE, MD — As part of the Unified Command response to the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and U.S. Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving restored the Fort McHenry Federal Channel to its original operational dimensions of 700 feet wide and 50 feet deep for commercial maritime transit through the Port of Baltimore.

Since March 26, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving worked to clear Key Bridge wreckage and move the M/V Dali from the Federal Channel. Following the removal of wreckage at the 50-foot mud-line, the Unified Command recently performed a survey of the Federal Channel, certifying the riverbed as safe for transit. Surveying and removal of steel at and below the 50-foot mud-line will continue to ensure future dredging operations are not impacted.

The Unified Command safely moved the M/V Dali and widened the Limited Access Channel to 400 feet, permitting all pre-collapse, deep-draft commercial vessels to transit through the Port of Baltimore. Now, the fully operational channel enables the flexibility to regain two-way traffic and cancel the additional safety requirements that were implemented because of the reduced channel width.

“We are proud of the unified efforts that fully reopened the Federal Channel to port operations,” said Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, Commanding General of USACE. “The partnerships that endured through this response made this pivotal mission successful.”

Fully restoring the Federal Channel to its original width and depth involved the removal of about 50,000 tons of bridge wreckage from the Patapsco River. At its highest point, the Unified Command, consisting of six agencies, led the response efforts among about 56 federal, state, and local agencies, represented by 1,587 individual responders. Additionally, about 500 specialists from around the world operated a fleet of 18 barges, 22 tugboats, 13 floating cranes, 10 excavators, and four survey boats. Subject matter experts from all over the U.S. also provided essential technical knowledge to the Unified Command.

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“We’ve cleared the Fort McHenry Federal Channel for safe transit. USACE will maintain this critical waterway as we have for the last 107 years,” said Col. Estee Pinchasin, Baltimore District Commander. “I cannot overstate how proud I am of our team. It was incredible seeing so many people from different parts of our government, from around our country, and all over the world, come together in the Unified Command and accomplish so much in this amount of time.”

The wreckage will continue to be transported to Sparrows Point for follow-on processing. Follow-on work in the channel from this point on is part of routine maintenance, ensuring future dredging operations will not be impacted.

“Although the overarching goal to restore full operational capacity to the Federal Channel was successful, each day, we thought of those who lost their lives, their families, and the workers impacted by this tragic event,” Pinchasin said. “Not a day went by that we didn’t think about all of them, and that kept us going.”

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