Page 90 - March2017

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Out & About |
a look back
Dredging has long
been a part of
Galveston’s history
By kimber fountain
Just over three years after the Great Storm of 1900 stuck
the Island, citizens of Galveston were growing anxious as the
Seawall neared completion and they were confronted with the
mystery of how the grade of the Island would ever be raised.
Although Texas Governor S.W.T. Lanham had officially appointed
a Grade Raising Commission, the members of the Commission
still had little more than a vague notion of where to find
the answers to the prospect of elevating over two thousand
structures and filling underneath them. The most glaring
speculation was how and from where they would obtain the
estimated 17 million cubic yards of fill needed for the project.
After careful consideration, the innovative ideas of the New
York engineering firm of Goedhart & Bates would be selected.
Their plan, designed by firm partners P.C. Goedhart and
Lindon W. Bates was as practical as it was novel, and the men’s
confidence and vision was contagious. In their statement to the
Grade Raising Commission they won the hearts and minds of
the small Island town, aided by their magnificent scheme that
solved all of the mysteries and questions that had plagued the
community for years.
They insisted that the fill be taken from the harbor, and were
well-equipped with four state-of-the-art steel hopper dredges
produced at their plant in Germany. The dredges were self-
loading, self-propelled, and self-discharging, and they were
capable of dispensing fill over long distances when they were
docked and attached to lines of shore pipe, unlike a traditional
dredge that could only drop its contents in place.
Fill from the harbor would be 80-90 percent water, but after
it was discharged into the designated area, the water would
recede and leave the silt behind. The watery consistency of the
fill not only allowed it to travel long distances, it completely
eliminated the need for scrapers and levelers.
Between the harbor and the areas to be filled was Galveston’s
bustling downtown and port, not an ideal area to lay pipes that
were up to 42 inches in diameter, but Goedhart and Bates had a
solution for that, too. Before the filling commenced, a canal was
cut across the city that ran parallel to the Seawall, exactly 100
feet behind it.
The land excavated to cut the canal was used to fill in this
space directly behind the Seawall, which aligned with the
city’s desire to fill this most prominent area first so that work
could begin on building Seawall Boulevard in order to more
immediately restore the value and attraction of the beachfront.
The canal started at 8
Street and the harbor and followed
the curve of the original Seawall down to the grade-raising
boundary at 33
Street. It was three miles long, twenty feet
deep, and two hundred feet across, with two turning basins.
The dredges careened down the canal and attached to docking
stations nearest the area to be elevated, then the watery fill
was released into the shore pipes. Inland, grade-raising districts
were designated and levees built around each one that varied
from two to ten feet high.
Despite the inconvenience, the project was accepted by a
community willing to sacrifice its own well-being for the prize
of future security and safety. Out of 2,156 houses that were
raised, not one condemnation suit was filed against the city.
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MARCH 2017