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Aug. 14, 2020

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Vigor seeks permit to dredge marina in Vancouver

Application seeks to dredge 20,000 cubic yards of sediment

By , Columbian business reporter
Published:
3 Photos
Vigor is seeking a dredging permit to maintain the access channel to a launching marina near its Vancouver facility. The company took over the former Christensen Shipyards building last year.
Vigor is seeking a dredging permit to maintain the access channel to a launching marina near its Vancouver facility. The company took over the former Christensen Shipyards building last year. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Industrial maritime company Vigor is seeking a dredging permit for the marina near the company’s Vancouver shipyard to serve as the launch point for a batch of its next-generation military landing craft.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers received Vigor’s application in December, according to a Jan. 27 public notice. The Corps had previously issued a permit for dredging at the same site in 2013, but it had expired.

The small cove near Marine Park doesn’t have a name; the application refers to it as the Vigor Industrial LLC marina. It includes a dock where the Vancouver Fire Department stores one of its fire boats and an oversized ramp that has traditionally been used to launch luxury yachts built by Christensen Shipyards.

Vigor purchased the Christensen shipyard in the Columbia Business Center a year ago, and Christensen spent the summer finishing up its two final boats before relocating to Tennessee. The shipyard was an ideal size for Vigor, which had just landed a 10-year contract to build the new army vessels.

The $1 billion contract calls for 37 of the new amphibious landing craft, officially called Maneuver Support Vessel (Light), or MSV(L). The all-aluminum craft will replace the Landing Craft Mechanized 8, which debuted in the 1950s, according to Defense News.

During his keynote address at the 2020 Economic Forecast Breakfast in January, Vigor vice-chairman Frank Foti said the company is currently working on a prototype model of the landing craft, which will be followed by four more based on refinements to the first one.

Full production of the other 32 vessels will begin in 2023, Foti said. When Vigor took over the shipyard last year, the company estimated that it would employ about 130 workers during the initial period and scale up to about 400 by the time full production begins.

The application seeks a permit to dredge up to 20,000 cubic yards of sediment from the marina basin and the access channel that connects it to the Columbia River, depositing the material into the flow lane of the river.

Up to 10,000 cubic yards would be dredged initially with the remainder following over a 10-year period — the same time frame in which Vigor is expected to build all the landing craft. The goal is to maintain the access channel to a 75-foot operating width and a depth of 10 feet below the river’s average water line.

A map in the application packet indicates that most of the dredging would take place in the access channel, with only some spot dredging in the marina itself on an as-needed basis. The map outlines a dredging path through the access channel extending about 2,000 feet out into the river to connect with the main navigation channel.

The Army Corps performs constant dredging in order to maintain the Columbia River’s main shipping channel at the minimum 43-foot depth necessary to accommodate the cargo ships that make their way from the Pacific Ocean to the ports of Vancouver and Portland.

Sand shoals constantly grow at the bottom of the channel, and the Corps removes about 6 million to 8 million cubic yards of sand each year to counteract the process.

The cargo ship lane ends at the Port of Vancouver, but a shallower section of the channel continues farther up the river to provide transit for smaller craft.

The Corps will review Vigor’s application for compliance with the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act, and the Washington Department of Ecology will review for compliance with the state’s water pollution control laws.

The Corps is seeking input from Native American tribal governments, historical societies and local governments as it evaluates the historical significance of the project area. The Corps’ notice said that there are historic properties near the dredging site, but not within the permit area.

“The permit area has been so extensively disturbed by modern development that little likelihood exists for the proposed project to impinge upon an undisturbed historic property,” the Corps wrote.

The notice does not give a timeframe for the Corps’ decision on the permit, but it lists a Feb. 27 deadline for public email and conventional mail comment.

Vigor could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the total value of Vigor’s 10-year contract with the Army. It is a $1 billion contract.

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