top of page

The scoop on dredging

Dredging is the removal of sediments and debris from the Port’s waterways and the San Francisco Bay Channel. Dredging is a routine necessity to keep Redwood Creek Channel open because otherwise sand and silt that is washed downstream gradually fills the channel. 


Dredging maintains and improves the width, depth and length of the Port’s waterways so the Port can continue to bring in large vessels that require more water depth to safely operate

Why is dredging so important?

Dredging scoops sediment from the creek bed that has been washed downstream where it gathers and begins to block and decrease the depth of the channel. This sediment is called silt and consists of fine-grained sand and clay.

What are the benefits of dredging?

The cargo that is shipped to our Port is valuable to our economy. Dredging ensures the safe, reliable and efficient movement of cargo to the Port. Without dredging, the channel would not allow larger vessels to pass through and would eventually fill up and close.



  • Brings cargo for construction projects
    Dredging keeps Redwood Creek Channel open for large cargo ships to bring in materials needed for regional construction projects.

  • Reduces ship stops
    Dredging reduces the need for lightering = removing some cargo in a deeper water location and shipping the remaining cargo to the final destination, so ships do not exceed depth limits.

  • Supports water activities
    The channel can remain open so the public can enjoy recreational uses of the channel. 


  • Supports the waterfront atmosphere
    The public can continue to enjoy the Port’s unique ecosystem, that thrives on the waterfront and is maintained by dredging. 


  • Allows investments in waterfront amenities
    Dredging supports the economic activity at the Port, helping fund investments in amenities.




  • Reduces environmental impact
    One full cargo ship alone can reduce up to 2,500 local truck trips on local roadways.

  • Increases regional impact
    Dredging is good for to the local economy, allowing the Port to support customers and grow operations via water.


  • Ensures public safety
    The Port is a Federal Staging Area and could be activated during an emergency to move people and supplies.




How much does not dredging cost?

Not dredging the channel would lead to the channel slowly filling up, prohibiting large vessels to pass through. In the 2018/2019 fiscal year, the Port moved 2.65 million metric tons with a regional economic impact of $9.3 million. Much of that revenue could be lost without a functioning channel. 

The Port is also a designated FEMA Federal Staging Area that needs a clear channel to move people and supplies in case of emergency such as a hurricane, earthquake or other disaster. 


Who dredges the channel? 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the channel clearance and invested $8 million in 2019 to dredge it to 30-feet deep. The Port invested $2 million in 2018 to dredge its berths to 34-feet deep, allowing larger vessels to dock. 


How is dredging completed?

A machine, called a clamshell dredge, scoops sediment and silt from the creek bed. A dredge has the ability to reach the depths of the creek bed, lift out the silt, and put it onto a barge. The barge takes the dredged materials to other locations in the bay to be reused. 


Download our Dredging Fact Sheet with this information and more.

bottom of page