Crews arrive to dredge Hickman Harbor
FULTON COUNTY, Ky. — The crew assigned to dredge Hickman Harbor in Fulton County has arrived. The Army Corps of Engineers originally thought the boat and machine would pull into the port June 20 but it redirected the crew to Memphis where the need was greater.
But if you ask anyone in Hickman, they'll tell you their need is pretty dire. The port has been closed since the end of May, when low water made it impossible for barges to move in or out.
"There are millions of dollars on every barge coming in, whether it be wire, grain, or fertilizer going out," said Greg Curlin, executive director of Riverport Hickman, Fulton County.
But he said the real problem is not really with the large amount of silt built up and blocking the way. It's the fact that it's been three years since anyone dredged the harbor. Curlin said it needs to be done every year.
"All the harbors in this area are having trouble with this," he said. "It's not just Hickman Harbor. All of them are having trouble with the dredging or the lack of dredging."
The Corps said they don't have the funding to do it every year. The $2 million job under way right now is ironically being paid for by a flooding relief grant. Curlin said last year's flood is actually the reason there is excess silt this year.
Terry Roncali is the port captain of Wepher Marine. He said he and his crew watched the Hickman Harbor deteriorate over the spring as the water levels dropped and the slit and sand started showing up. He hasn't moved a barge in more than a month and the standstill is costing him money.
"We have probably lost somewhere between 150 or 200 barges that we would have loaded and unloaded up to this point," he said. "It's devastating. I mean, we've lost a lot."
The crew will work around the clock for the next 17 days and then they will have to move on to the next port.
Curlin said even after Hickman Harbor is back in service, he'll continue his work fighting for dredging funding.
"We've got to do something," he said. "This, to me, is something that needs to be taken care of. It's a part of our infrastructure that we have to keep going."
Curlin hopes parts of the port will be open in as little as two weeks and everything open in three weeks.