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USACE Leads Effort to Clear Fort McHenry Channel Following Key Bridge Collapse

BALTIMORE, MD — Shortly after the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Baltimore District activated its Emergency Operations Center, clearing the way for engineering, construction, contracting, and operations specialists to begin the complex process of clearing the damage and debris along the Fort McHenry Channel to restore safe navigation in and out of the Port of Baltimore.

Together, through the efforts of the Unified Command, USACE is working to determine the actions required to remove the fallen debris. Preliminary underwater analysis and assessment is currently underway, providing critical data that will assist in future operations.

The data collected during this process will help determine the operational plan needed to reopen the federal channel.

“We continue to provide our best talent and technology in support of the Coast Guard and our local, state, and federal partners,” said USACE Commanding General Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for engineering solutions to our nation’s toughest challenges, and this disaster constitutes one of those top challenges. It requires a deliberate, diligent engineering strategy, based on careful assessments of the disaster site, and with safety as our top priority.”

As of the time of publication, USACE is providing:

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  • Certified underwater assessment capabilities by structural professional engineers, remotely operated vehicle, and sonar.
  • Structural engineering support, including certified bridge safety inspectors and urban search and rescue structural technical specialists.
  • Waterway debris management, led by USACE debris removal vessel, Reynolds, which patrols the waters of the Baltimore Harbor and Patapsco River for drift and debris that could be hazardous to navigation; hydrographic and topographic surveying via the Catlett, a 61-foot survey vessel that actively supports the Baltimore District’s Navigation Branch. Two survey vessels from USACE, Philadelphia District, H.R. Spies and the Dauntless, are also providing support.

USACE is also poised to provide the following support to the joint response:

  • Additional USACE vessels are prepared to join efforts as needed for waterway debris management, led by USACE debris removal vessel, Reynolds.
  • USACE dive safety experts from the Philadelphia, Buffalo, and New England Districts are preparing to join the response effort.

Baltimore District operates and maintains more than 290 miles of federal navigable channels within the Susquehanna River watershed, including the Fort McHenry Channel.

“We have marshaled incredible skills and the best equipment available. I am fully confident that we have the right team and partners in place to tackle this project and do what we do best — serve and strengthen this great nation,” said USACE Baltimore District Commander Col. Estee Pinchasin. “Many of our USACE Baltimore teammates were born and raised locally. We are deeply invested and fully committed. We are ready to get to work.”

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