US Army Corps of Engineers
New Orleans District

Dredge Wheeler

The hopper dredge WHEELER is operated by the New Orleans District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is the largest hopper dredge in the Corps of Engineers.

The WHEELER keeps waterway channels clear from Key West, Florida, to Brownsville, Texas. Although the dredge is maintained in a state of readiness for worldwide operations, it spends the majority of its time operating in the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River, dealing with shoaling problems that occur during high and low water.

The WHEELER is staffed with 38 civil service mariners. Crewmembers are divided into two operating tours, alternating two weeks on/two weeks off, and weighted between full and skeleton manning. Their working schedule consists of 10 and 12 hour days, including weekends. When underway, the dredge operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Every 14 days it docks for fuel, supplies, water, and engine maintenance

In compliance with recent legislation, the dredge is kept in a Ready Reserve status, capable of responding to an urgent dredging requirement within three days. Periodic Readiness Exercises throughout the year keep the crew and equipment prepared for these contingencies.

Dredging Operations

The WHEELER is a "trailing suction" hopper dredge. That is, it operates much like a giant vacuum cleaner. It is uniquely designed with three large drag arms and an impressive pumping capacity. To dredge a channel, the drag arms are lowered over the side to the channel bottom. While the WHEELER travels forward at a speed of approximately 2 knots, the drag arms suck a water and sand mixture, known as slurry, from the channel bottom. The slurry passes through the drag heads and pipelines into the hopper.

  With all pumps and drag arms operating, the WHEELER fills its hopper with slurry in about 11 minutes; however, pumping continues to allow sediment to displace the water in the hopper and obtain a maximum load of as much as 7,872 cubic yards of sediment.

On a good operating day, the WHEELER can remove 100,000 cubic yards of material, or about 7,000 dumptruck loads, from a project site.

The dredged material is transported from the channel being maintained to an authorized Dredge Material Containment Area, where it is deposited by opening 14 hopper doors on the WHEELER's bottom and allowing the material to fall to the ocean floor.

With all pumps and drag arms operating, the WHEELER fills its hopper with slurry in about 11 minutes; however, pumping continues to allow sediment to displace the water in the hopper and obtain a maximum load of as much as 7,872 cubic yards of sediment
The bottom of one of the WHEELER's drag heads.

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On a good operating day, the WHEELER can remove 100,000 cubic yards of material, or about 7,000 dumptruck loads, from a project site.

The dredged material is transported from the channel being maintained to an authorized Dredge Material Containment Area, where it is deposited by opening 14 hopper doors on the WHEELER's bottom and allowing the material to fall to the ocean floor.

THE U.S. DREDGE WHEELER
At a Glance

 

Drag arms
2 overside @ 28" diameter
1 centerwell @ 42" diamter
Full load capacity 8,256 cubic yards
Overall length 408 feet, 3 inches
Height
(keel to top of mast)
156 feet
Loaded displacement 19,030.9 L. tons
Gross tonnage 10,164 tons
Loaded draft 29 feet, 6 inches mean
Propulsion Twin diesel with bowthruster
Total horsepower 10,400 main, 800 on bowthrusters
Shafting Twin propeller, controllable pitch
Top speed at full load 14.4 knots
Crew 38 total, divided into 2 working tours
Date Launched 18 February 1981
Date placed in service 17 September 1982