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Port of Vancouver sedimentation analysis

Maintaining a deeper channel that drives economic growth

Port of Vancouver USA / Vancouver, Washington


The Port of Vancouver USA, Washington, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012. The third largest port in the state, it has five marine terminals, 13 deepwater shipping berths, and handled 4.6 million metric tons of cargo in 2012. One sixth of the United States’ wheat harvest moves through the Port of Vancouver, which is also a key point of entry for other commodities such as Subaru vehicles and wind turbines.

In 2010, an extensive project to deepen the Columbia River shipping channel was completed. By increasing the channel’s depth in the Columbia River from 40 to 43 feet, Panamax-size vessels can now be accommodated, allowing more flexibility and saving transportation costs for shippers.

Continued access, however, depends on an ongoing program of maintenance dredging and deepening.


In 2010, the Port of Vancouver USA requested Mott MacDonald to analyze the sedimentation patterns at the Port’s Grain Terminal and at berths 1 through 5, 7, 8, and 10. The work consisted of data collection, analysis, preliminary and final design, bidding assistance, and construction administration.

Our analysis resulted in a predictive method that provides statistically accurate estimates of sedimentation rates at each of the port’s facilities, including berths 1 through 10.


Using our predictive method, the port was able to avoid maintenance dredging during the 2011-2012 dredging cycle, without any detrimental impact on navigable depths.

According to Todd Coleman, executive director of the Port of Vancouver USA, the return on investment from deepening the navigation channel has exceeded all expectations. :"Less than one year after the project’s completion in late 2010, the region’s ports have attracted more than $900 million in private-sector investment that can be tied directly to that effort.”

Mott MacDonald utilized advanced hydrodynamic modeling tools such as FLOW3D to determine areas of high and low velocities. The figure shows a typical 3D modeling domain at Berth 10.

This figure shows the model’s calculated 3D velocities at the site.

Mott MacDonald thoroughly examined survey data to obtain realistic sedimentation/erosion rates at each berth.

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