By Ted McIntyre II – CEO and Owner – Marine Turbine Technologies, LLC – Franklin, Louisiana
With the recent success of our land bank mitigation projects, the local Louisiana utility (Entergy) called MTT about a new project in the Jean Lafitte Wildlife Refuge. This project originated several months prior with MTT’s partner, Faucheux Airboat Services.
The call was to mobilize and report to a location on the west bank of New Orleans. Located in Westwego, Louisiana, this remote refuge is home to some of Louisiana’s most beautiful and cherished wetlands. Unfortunately, hurricanes and coastal erosion have taken their toll on this incredible part of southern Louisiana. Home to alligators and migrating birds, this preserve is also a fantastic recreational sanctuary with numerous camps for fishing and hunting.
Where you find camps you’ll also find a need for electrical power. The area has several high power transmission lines that transverse the wetlands running south to the Intercostal Waterway. During the storms of recent years several of these high voltage lines were damaged and needed repair. In the past the only option the utility companies had was to use marsh buggies to erect new poles and replace damaged lines. This comes at a tremendous cost to the environment.
In order to contain the damage the marsh buggies try to limit their paths as much as possible. However, the constant tracking back and forth over these same areas create canals due to the destruction caused by the dozer-like cleats used to move the machines. These cleats destroy the vegetation and in some cases take years to fully recover. Entergy is but one of the companies who maintain powerlines in environmentally sensitive areas and they take extraordinary precautions to prevent unnecessary damage. They also use every means available to restore the environment to its previous condition.
MTT was contracted to transport and install several hundred bundles of retention material made from the innovative use of coconut husks. These 10 foot long by one foot diameter bundles are laid across the canals created by the tracks of the marsh buggies. The bundles are held in place with 20 foot sections of 2 by 2 inch pine stakes. This allows the tidal flow to access the damaged areas. When the tide recedes the sediment is retained which builds up the land and allows the vegetation to take root.
MTT’s involvement with this project was estimated to take four to five days. The timeline was based on the amount of material that needed to be transported to the remediation area and the nature of the marsh we had to work in.
This particular marsh has large areas of “Floataun” or floating marsh. This type of environment is extremely hard to transverse using an airboat. The marsh effectively stacks up in front of the hull if the boat is transporting any weight other than a bare hull. Several four engine air boats have tried to negotiate this particular marsh with no payload on the deck to only get a couple of boat lengths in and find themselves stuck. On more than one occasion these boats have blown up engines trying to free themselves. The only option was to send a marsh buggy to pull these conventionally powered airboats out. Entergy had seen the video of our twin engine Turbine Superboat transporting Cleco’s 12,000 lb. track machine and asked if we could navigate this challenging marsh.
When we showed up on location the boat was dropped in the parking lot adjacent to the canal leading to the refuge. The parking lot is protected by a small levee built to keep water from the canal flooding the area. Due to the recent torrential rains this levee turned the parking lot into a small lake.
With hundreds of bundles to be transported along with equally as many 20 foot stakes we loaded the boat with all the supplies delivered to the site. The estimated weight was between five and six thousand lbs. The deck was covered and the only concern was visibility over the bundles.
At first light we set out with two conventional airboats as part of the operation. The personnel in the accompanying smaller airboats were waiting to see how we would negotiate the levee separating the parking area and the canal. We barely had to bring the engines above idle to walk over the levee on our way to the first location.
Because there is a substantial amount of no wake zones passing through this area the time to get to the location becomes a major factor to productivity. The original plan was to take a limited load and transport it to the floating marsh simply to see if we could successfully cross the area. The decision to roll the dice was one our team felt confident we could handle so we took everything that could be safely loaded on the deck and proceeded.
Unless you’ve experienced an early morning airboat ride with the sun rising on a clear day in the Jean Lafitte Wildlife refuge my words won’t do it justice. The fact that the first 30 minutes was at an idle speed allowed us to take in the moment and enjoy this little piece of paradise. During our trek multitudes of fisherman and camp dwellers were waking to the sound of what they must have thought was a space ship. To see the expressions on their faces as this monster idled past their peaceful habitats must have seemed like a dream. I would routinely stop the propellers via our propriety braking system just to add to the mystery of the package.
Once we cleared the residential area we made short work of the eight mile run to the first location. The mission statement called for me to position the boat on the floating marsh and use it as the mother ship for the smaller airboats to load out supplies and install the retention levees across the damaged marsh.
This is where it got real – I think there were certain individuals who were rather skeptical of this new technology and had their reservations as to how and if it would work. In a typical situation the operator would get a running start to try and get on top of the floating marsh but I wanted to see what we could do in the worst case scenario. I idled up to the edge of the marsh and simple powered up the twin turbine engines and, as anticipated, the boat pushed forward and broke over the top like it was nothing. I then maneuvered the boat in a position that would allow the smaller boats to come along side and load out as needed.
Because we can stop the propellers as needed we are able to spin the boat in a tight circle, effectively traversing the same course we came in on. If you’ve spent any time in an airboat you would know that sitting in one spot for a period of time with a load can be a real problem. The boat has a tendency to settle and the marsh is notorious for creating a vacuum. Just because you got in doesn’t mean that you can get out.
In our case the smaller boats working next to our hull were adding to the problem as their path was pushing our hull deeper and deeper in the marsh. When it came time to move once again everyone was anxious to see if we would be able to break free. I’ll admit it took probably 20% more power to get the boat moving but with 3,000 HP on tap we had plenty in reserve.
We moved to four more locations. We developed a system to move the bundles back and forth to the site such that the smaller boats could focus on laying out the material while the second boat focused on installing the stakes to hold the retention levee in place.
What initially was to be a four to five day project was effectively done in one day. When you’re billing a day rate and get paid for the days you work it might not seem to be the best way to make money by finishing projects like this ahead of schedule, but I think the next time Entergy needs the impossible done they’ll know who to call.
Reputations are built one job at a time and with the success of the land bank mitigation project and the Entergy remediation project history we’re well on our way to revolutionizing the airboat and marine transportation business, especially where the environment is at risk.
Thanks to all who participated in this project and we look forward to our next challenge.
Ted McIntyre II
The MTT Solution is a twin engine Super Turbine Airboat for sensitive wetland mitigation, utility work, pipeline, wireline, coiled tubing, EMS, P&A, well remediation and frac pumps. Configurations include articulating crane, hydraulic drill, firefighting equipment and rescue apparatus. Led by Ted McIntyre, MTT is at the forefront of turbine innovation.
A review of the MTT twin engine Super Turbine Airboat capabilities can be found here: http://marineturbine.com/turbine-powered-workboats/
Marine Turbine Technologies, LLC (MTT)
298 Louisiana Rd.
Franklin, LA 70538 USA