The Vicksburg Engineer District has announced the Corps of Engineers’ Mat Sinking Unit wrapped up its 2020 revetment season March 4. The historic unit returned to Vicksburg, Miss., March 6 after 230 days deployed all along the Mississippi River. It’s the unit’s second longest deployment in 25 years.
The unit—comprised of a mat sinking barge, a mat supply barge, quarter barges, spar barges, gantry cranes, crew boats and shoreside bulldozers—began its season with a virtual blessing of the fleet July 1, 2020.
In the days that followed, the Mat Sinking Unit laid about 266,000 concrete “squares,” woven together into massive mats, along Mississippi River bottom at critical points to help arm the bank and channel against scouring and erosion. In total, that’s about 600 acres worth of concrete matting. In contrast, the 2019 revetment season saw just over 167,000 squares laid.
Mat Sinking Unit crew members, 300 in all, accomplished that feat during the 2020 season in spite of precautions in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. COVID protocols included physical distancing, reduced occupancy in staterooms, plexiglass dividers in common areas and enhanced cleaning. A mask mandate was in place when physical distancing was not possible. Rapid COVID-19 testing was readily available as well.
The typical tour was extended from 12 days to 25 days, and the Corps provided transportation to and from work sites.
“We are incredibly proud of our crew for completing a phenomenal season despite unprecedented circumstances,” said Vicksburg District Commander Col. Robert Hilliard. “Their months of dedication exemplify the district’s unwavering commitment to this vital mission and its ability to adapt to fluid situations.”
The Mat Sinking Unit in its current form dates back to 1948, but a new unit, named ARMOR 1, currently under construction at Thoma-Sea Shipyard in Lockport, La. Corps and shipyard officials were on site March 1 for the first steel cutting for ARMOR 1. That cutting-edge unit is expected to be delivered by the end of 2022, with its first official revetment season in 2023.
Caption for photo: Col. Robert Hilliard, Vicksburg District commander, watches steel-cutting for ARMOR 1, the next-generation mat-sinking unit, at Thoma-Sea Shipyard.(Photo courtesy of Corps of Engineers)