Warren County Supervisors discuss LeTourneau boat ramp maintenance

Published 2:58 pm Friday, July 15, 2022

County Engineer Keith O’Keefe spoke to the Warren County Board of Supervisors about proposed dredging on the LeTourneau boat ramp on Monday. 

Currently, due to the build-up of sediment, the ramp is not useable at certain times due to fluctuations in the water level. The county has been collecting bids for work that would allow the boat ramp to be used year-round. 

O’Keefe pointed out that not having access to the ramp at certain times has done more than just inconvenience recreational boaters.

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“The Sheriff’s Department was trying to launch (during an emergency in the last year),” O’Keefe said. “They couldn’t use that ramp, so they had to put in a temporary ramp about a half-mile downriver.”

The Warren County Road Department has been doing regular maintenance on the ramp. However, O’Keefe said that their capabilities are limited by their equipment. They are only able to remove some of the underwater sediment that builds up in that location.

“So, in the past, road management has cleaned off the concrete ramp. And they dig out maybe 40 to 50 feet from the end of the ramp at the most,” he said. “Just basically what they can reach with the boom on their (vehicle). So they’ve never gone out there and dredged out the entire shelf.”

The work had been advertised to contractors so they could submit bids to dredge an area in front of the ramp about 200 feet long and about 30 feet wide.

“We accepted bids a week and a half ago. The lowest was $545,000,” O’Keefe told Supervisors. “And that’s just an awful lot of money for that work.”

He added that he had spoken to other experts and had been given rough estimates (not bids) of less than half of that amount for the same amount of work. 

“Our alternative is to put it out to bid again,” he said, adding that it is also not known how long the dredging operation will keep the boat ramp useable year-round before needing more dredging to be done to maintain it.

District 4 Supervisor Jeffery Holland was in favor of trying to find a contractor with a lower bid.

“I would just reject and readvertise,” he said. “And see if we catch a bigger fish.”

District 1 Supervisor Ed Herring also suggested that it might be worth looking into the feasibility of turning the location of the temporary ramp used by the Sheriff’s Office into a permanent ramp.

“I know that that location would be, in the long term, way more sustainable,” Herring said. 

Holland also supported gathering information for a possible second ramp.

“I think it’s worth checking on, for sure. There seems to be enough emphasis from the number of commercial fishers we have and then people who want to just get in the river there, that it seems like we should sustain it,” he said. “Because otherwise, you have to go to Claiborne County or downtown to get on the river. I don’t think we slow down with the process that we’re doing. we readvertise, but we can check on the viability of doing another one on a parallel track and discuss it the next work session.”