« PreviousContinue »
IMPROVEMENT OF SABINE PASS AND BLUE BUCK BAR, AND OF SABINE AND NECHES RIVERS, TEXAS.
REPORT OF CAPTAIN WILLIAM H. HEUFR, CORPS OF ENGINEERS, OFFICER IN CHARGE, FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 1883, WITH OTHER DOCUMENTS RELATING TO THE WORKS.
1. Sabine Pass and Blue Buck Bar, Texas. 3. Neches River, Texas. 2. Sabine River, Texas.
UNITED STATES ENGINEER OFFICE,
GENERAL: I have the honor to forward herewith my annual reports of the river and harbor improvements under my charge for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1883.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brig. Gen. H. G. WRIGHT,
W. H. HEUER,
Captain of Engineers.
IMPROVEMENT OF SABINE PASS AND BLUE BUCK BAR, TEXAS.
For the purpose of securing deeper water over the bar at this place, a channel of 12 feet in depth and 75 feet in least width was dredged through it in 1878. This channel was not self-maintaining, and a second channel was afterwards dredged on about the same line as the first. This cut soon refilled. Experiment and observation showed that a dredged channel could not be maintained, except by constant dredging at a heavy expense. After a complete survey of the pass and a careful study of the currents, tides, and all physical data available, the question of obtaining a channel by the construction of jetties was considered.__ A report, project, and estimate of cost was made in 1882 by Captain Heuer, the engineer then in charge of the work. The project was referred to a Board of Engineers for Fortifications and River and Harbor Improvement for examination and report, all of which was transmitted to Congress March 28, 1882, and printed as House Ex. Doc. 147, Forty-seventh Congress, first session.
The proposed plan was estimated to cost over $3,000,000. It contemplated the construction of two jetties, each nearly 4 miles in length, to concentrate and confine the water, and thus produce a scour sufficient to maintain a channel when once established.
On August 2, 1882, Congress appropriated $150,000 for improving Sabine Pass and Blue Buck Bar, Texas. This amount, together with balances left from former appropriations, $151,296, gave us about $300,000 with which to commence the new project.
In September, 1882, proposals were invited by advertisement, and in October following the work was let by contract to the lowest responsible bidder to build about $290,000 worth of jetty; the specifications giving all information necessary to bidders, and requiring them to state the price per cubic yard for brush mattresses, and of stone per ton, put in place in the work.
The contract was awarded to F. A. Hyatt & Co., of Texas, and as a work of this magnitude required a considerable plant, estimated to cost about $50,000, they were given until January 1, 1883, as the time at which the work of actually building a part of the jetty was to commence, and their contract was to expire not later than December 1, 1883, or as much earlier as they could build $290,000 worth of jetty.
The west jetty was commenced early in January, and though much time has since been lost in consequence of bad weather and numerous other delays, the progress thus far has been quite satisfactory, and has resulted in building the foundation of the west jetty from the shore continuously beyond the crest of the bar, a distance of 10,600 running feet, or a little over 2 miles in length, and varying in width from 15 to 60 feet, depending on the depth of water in which they are placed.
The mats within the jetty are in all respects identical with those now being constructed by Colonel Mansfield in his Galveston jetties. I am indebted to him for many suggestions and much valuable information. Where the water did not exceed 4 feet in depth, it became a question whether the jetty should consist of two vertical tiers of mats each 2 feet thick, or of one mat 4 feet thick. We adopted the single mat 4 feet high with the best of results. Since then, where not too much exposed to the action of the sea, we build thick mattresses in preference to thin ones as a matter of economy to the work. The brush-work costs us in place $2.25 per cubic yard, the rock ballast costs us $3.90 per gross ton of 2,240 pounds. We therefore use as little rock as possible, just sufficient to sink the mat in place, and then throw on a little extra weight for safety sake, to guard against loss in case of a sudden storm. We have been using an average of 1 ton of rock to 7 cubic yards of brush, while the proportion of 1 to 9 is generally sufficient to sink the mat. In a few days after a mat has been sunk it becomes filled with mud to such an extent that it is almost impossible to move it without breaking the mat to pieces. In one instance the contractors placed a mat in position during high tide; when the tide fell, it grounded; they had no rock ballast available to put on it; the weather looked favorable, and they concluded to let it remain where it was until the next day; during the night a severe storm came up with an unusually high tide; the storm lasted several days; the shore end of the mat had accumulated mud and stuck fast to the muddy bottom; the outer or sea end of the mat was afloat and was lifted and pounded by the sea, until about 30 feet of it was whipped to pieces; a little rock ballast was afterwards added to the sound part of the mat and such part was accepted; in a few days the brush was so full of mud that it was impossible to move the mat; two other unballasted mats afterwards drifted from the
line of the jetty and lodged in shoaler water; in a few days they had accumulated so much mud that it was impossible to move either of them. The remarkable behavior of these mats in the rapid accumulations of mud has led me to consider whether or not some much cheaper material than rock could be used to sink the mat in place and hold it there for a few days until the sediment should lodge in the brush and hold it there. The grillage at top and bottom of each mat forms a series of pockets each about 3 feet by 5 feet in size, by about 1 foot in depth, and I am anxious to try mud dredged from the channel as a ballasting material. If a mat be anchored over the position it is to occupy and these pockets be filled or partly filled with mud amply sufficient to sink it, there is good reason to believe it will remain in position forever. The only danger liable to happen is, that a storm may arise within less than a day after a mat has lodged, and may wash the mud from the pockets sufficiently to let the mat float away; but this seems improbable, and my impression is that much of the mud dumped into the pockets will work down into the brush and hold the mat in place until nature completes the work thus begun. We accept no mats until they have been in place in the jetty for forty-eight hours-and the contractor is so willing to take the risk on three or four mats loaded with mud, that I have ordered the experiment to be made. If the experiment succeeds we shall save hundreds of thousands of dollars in the final cost of the jetties; if it fails, we simply pay the cost of the hire of a dredge-boat for one day.
The quarries from which the rock ballast is obtained are about 100 miles from Sabine Pass, and the only means of transportation from there to the pass is by means of the railroad now in operation. It is reported that the railroad company are charging the contractor 2 cents per nett ton per mile for hauling this rock, or say $2 per ton for transportation alone without loading or unloading the cars. As the rock has to be quarried, hauled to the cars, loaded, and finally unloaded, then be reloaded on barges, and finally put in position in the jetty, it is fair to infer that the contractor is losing money on the rock part of his contract. If we can find a substitute for rock ballast, it is fair to presume that the railroad company will come down to a reasonable rate for the transportation of rock.
On the bar and its seaward slope, the foundation mats of the jetty are built wedge shaped, thin at one edge and thick at the other, the thin edge exposed to the sea, the thick edge toward the axis of the jetty. This shape offers a small resistance to the action of the sea and prevents a mat from being torn to pieces during a storm.
There is also a marked advantage in having a foundation mat thin and flexible, as in the event of a scour such mat easily conforms to the shape of the bottom, which a stiff or rigid mat could not do. The mats above the foundation course may be made stiffer, and it is possible that rafts of logs and brush combined with slabs may be used economically as the work progresses. A small amount of money has been withheld for experimental purposes, and if any cheaper construction than that now in use can be found, that will prove satisfactory, we shall be prepared to adopt it.
The jetty as far as built has as yet had no appreciable effect on the bar, nor was any beneficial effect expected; it is even questionable if, when this jetty is completed, we shall have any greatly increased depth of water on the bar. The project of last year contemplated that one jetty be completed before the second jetty was commenced. This is a perfectly safe plan to work upon, but will not in all probability give the deepest water in the shortest time. From the effect which only one
course (foundation) of mats has had in increasing the current and in changing its direction, and in causing such immense deposits between the jetty and the Texas shore, it is probable that if the second jetty was pushed along as the first jetty has been, that we should now have had an increased depth of water on the bar. The present contract only permits work on the west jetty. The money available will carry the foundation course out to perhaps a depth of 14 or 15 feet of water, with portions of the second tier of mattresses, where the currents cross the present line of jetty. When this contract is completed, which will probably be about December 1, 1883, such part as has been constructed will be reasonably secure against any damage; then, if Congress appropriates as much money as can be profitably expended in the next fiscal year, it might and probably would benefit commerce more to start the second jetty and carry it beyond the crest of the bar than it would to expend this money on the west jetty. It is probable that if both jetties were built out to 14 feet depth of water there would be a channel of at least 14 feet depth between them, and in such event it is more than probable that the lumber trade alone would send over this bar ten times the value of the commerce now crossing it.
Between January and July of this year there has been spent on jetty construction at Sabine Pass $148,373.83, to show for which we have a little over 2 miles of jetty. It is fair to infer that the balance of available funds, $152,922.23, can be expended advantageously by December 1, 1883, and we could use to advantage another $150,000 by June 30, 1884, if we had it to spend.
It is clear, therefore, that $300,000 can be profitably expended on one jetty in a year, and as the project requires two jetties, which could be built simultaneously if funds were available, it is probable that $600,000 could profitably be expended on this work in a fiscal year.
It is certain that the jetties can be built for less than my estimates of 1882. My estimate was at the rate of $3 per cubic yard. We are building under the present contract at about $2.45 per cubic yard. The plant, consisting of tugs, steamboats, barges, mattress-ways, &c., for undertaking a work of this kind, costs about $50,000, and as there are very few contractors who have such plant available, they cannot afford to bid on such work at a reasonable price, unless the contract is for a large amount, and they will all probably figure on the cost of the plant to come from the profits of the job.
The following is an abstract of the bids received for doing this work: Abs'ract of proposals for improving harbor at Sabine Pass, Texas, received at noon, October 21, 1882.
League & Jones, Galveston, Tex
A. M. Newton & J. H. Eckstein, New York City
John Maguire, Mobile, Ala..
S. N. Kimball, Mobile, Ala.
Brush mattress, in Rock ballast, in place.
Awarded to F. A. Hyatt & Co., at $2.25 and $3.90.
Messrs. Hyatt & Co.'s contract will probably be completed December 1, 1883. This will exhaust the money available, except a small amount