The modernization of Jacksonville District’s fleet of survey boats continues with the arrival of its newest vessel.
Crew members took delivery of the new boat, known as SB-48, in the past few weeks and have been working to install survey equipment so it will be ready to perform missions later this year.
“Once it tests out, it’ll be ready to use,” said Phil Bates, plant manager, who helped write the specifications for the new boat. “We are finalizing all the cabling and are looking forward to deploying this vessel.”
The first job for SB-48 will be an underwater site investigation of scouring on the south bank of the Caloosahatchee River downstream of the Ortona Lock along the Okeechobee Waterway.
“I was approached by the project manager asking if we had the capability to perform such a survey,” said Brian Brodehl, chief of the Survey and Mapping Branch. “I said that we have a brand new shallow water sound that can provide both high-resolution multi-beam and sidescan sonar imagery simultaneously, and he said that would be perfect.”
The 26-foot catamaran is replacing a 25-year-old boat. It will be based in Jacksonville, but can be transported by trailer. It will work up and down both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.
“The old boats were great years ago,” said Bates, “but advancements in technology on catamarans really make them better suited to hydro-survey activities today.”
The 26-foot boats in the Jacksonville fleet are used primarily for surveying activities close to land, including inland waterways, where larger boats are unable to work. The district also has off shore boats in its fleet, like the 62-foot catamaran Florida II, and other vessels that work in areas in between.
“We’ve used our old boats to their life expectancy,” said Bates. “Repair costs escalate with age. It’s just not cost effective to keep repairing boats after a certain point.”
The new boats will have plenty of work, supporting shore protection projects on both coasts, channels for navigation, and projects that will result in deeper ports in the coming years.
“Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base is one of our larger customers,” said Brodehl. “We recently completed surveys for the entrance channel at St. Mary’s Inlet as well as the inner harbor up to the naval base. The Florida II will also support an inspection tour of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, something its predecessor, the Florida, did annually for many years.”
One of the more unique survey projects in recent weeks involved a mission to search for potential cultural resources off the shore near Stuart, in support of a shore protection project in Miami-Dade County.
“We used the full capabilities of Florida II on that mission,” said Brodehl. “In the past, we would have to survey the locations three times due to the different survey methods and equipment that were needed for that job. Instead, because of the highly advanced equipment we installed on Florida II, we were able to perform multiple scanning methods concurrently, resulting in a savings of 50 percent for this job.”
The surveying and mapping mission isn’t restricted to water. Brodehl says the branch also has numerous land-based missions as well.
“We are currently supporting the Multi-Projects Branch and Vicksburg District on the STA-1E project in West Palm Beach,” said Brodehl. “We’ve also got a job upcoming in the Three Forks Marsh area that sounds interesting and challenging at the same time. We expect to see a good amount of wildlife there, including many gators that inhabit the marsh.”
Additionally, the Surveying and Mapping Branch has become the new home for Jacksonville District’s Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) program.
“This form of remote sensing and high resolution mapping has added a great deal of surveying capability to the branch and the district,” said Brodehl. “We expect use of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to grow significantly as we gain the trust and acceptance of our partners and customers.”
The UAS is currently supporting projects at Herbert Hoover Dike and for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Additional work is coming up for the U.S. Navy and for emergency operations programs.
“There’s basically nothing in the surveying world we can’t do,” said Brodehl. “We are a fully capable surveying and mapping team, and we want people to keep us in mind as they plan future projects.”