EM 1110-2-1100 (Part I)
30 Apr 02
(4) In 1830, Army Engineers surveyed and made recommendations for the improvement of Baltimore
Harbor, Maryland. A prolonged program of channel improvement began in 1852, and by the summer of
1872, as many as 13 dredges were engaged in the excavation of the waterway. By the time of the Spanish-
American war in 1898, Baltimore had become one of the world's major ports (Kanarek 1976 pp. 41-59).
(5) Buffalo, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio, grew from frontier villages to manufacturing and
commercial centers in a little over a century because of their locations at the terminus of water and rail routes
connecting the grain-rich areas of the west to the eastern urban centers. The economic lives of the two cities
depended on the construction and maintenance of harbor facilities such as seawalls, jetties, breakwaters, and
dredged channels. As a result of successive harbor improvement projects, they have become major cities on
the Great Lakes (Drescher 1982). Much of the 19th century development of the mid-West and the Great Lakes
occurred as European immigrants traveled through the port of New York, along the Erie Barge Canal through
Buffalo, and on to points further west.
(6) Hell Gate, a one-mile section of the East River that connected Long Island Sound with New York
Harbor, had very strong currents that sliced around rocks and islands and ran back and forth because the tides
in the harbor and sound did not coincide. In 1845, New York city began an effort to open the East River to
navigation and in 1852, the Corps tackled the immensely difficult task of developing new technology for
underwater excavation and blasting that would be required to clear Hell Gate for navigation. The project was
completed 30 years later (Klawonn 1977 pp. 69-93).
(7) In 1868, Congress responded to request for assistance from California that resulted in a long
productive period of Federal, State, and local cooperation. The development of the California coast with rail
connections to modern, deepwater ports at San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland was the
ultimate result (Turhollow 1975 pp. 20-48).
(8) Following the devastating 1900 hurricane at Galveston, Texas, which drowned over 6,000 of its
citizens, the city assigned three civilian engineers the task of developing the safest and most efficient means
to protect the city from similar future floods. Based on their study, the city constructed a 5,360-meter
(17,600-foot) curved face concrete seawall, (Figure V-3-5). The city was elevated several meters using sand
pumped from Galveston Bay onto the beach behind the seawall. At the same time, Congress authorized a
connecting seawall to protect the port and military reservation at Fort Crockett. The 4,900-ft extension was
constructed from 1904 to 1905 (Alperin 1977, pp. 237-244).
b. Nineteenth century coastal engineering. In 19th century United States, most engineering in the coastal
area consisted of the application of principles well known to engineers accustomed to dealing with rivers.
There was little concern about the unique nature of the coast, and studies of the effects of wind and waves
upon the shore were sporadic, desultory, and unscientific. Trial and error, frequently accompanied by
innovation was the teaching tool of the day. Improvement of the St. Johns River mouth at Jacksonville,
Florida provides a good example. A continuously shifting sinuous channel through the bar made navigation
difficult, so in the 1850s, a citizens group petitioned the USACE for help in dealing with the sandbar problem.
One solution proposed was to put the scouring power of the current to work by constructing jetties. The
USACE engineers preferred to try clearing the channel by frequent dredging and raking during the strongest
phase of the ebb. These attempts failed, and in 1878 influential citizens hired Captain James B. Eads to study
the problem. The 1878 Eads report recommended constructing two converging jetties to create a stable deep
channel out to sea. His report contained principles of seacoast engineering, sketches of the tidal prism, and
estimates of the area that could be maintained. The sophisticated technology to confirm Eads' findings would
not be available well into the 20th century. Largely as a result of Eads' success constructing the jetties at the
mouth of the Mississippi River, the USACE adopted a modified version of his jetty plan for improving the
St. Johns River entrance (Buker 1981, pp. 69-82) (Figure I-3-4).
History of Coastal Engineering