Creating New Commercial Land

By Liz Moucka | September 28, 2010

With four marinas nestled just off Galveston Bay halfway between Houston and Galveston, Seabrook is a convenient port catering to sailing enthusiasts. Seabrook, Kemah and Clear Lake are also thriving communities that are "home base" to many astronauts, scientists and other professionals who work at nearby Johnson Space Center. To most people this area, it is a paradise.

To Jim Flanagan, this area just outside the Houston-Galveston industrial and shipping zones is home to his family's business, Marine, Inc. Since the late 1960s, Flanagan has been in the business of marina work — dredging the shallow bay and basins for small craft traffic, building boathouses, piers and bulkheads. A lot of that work has been for the Blue Dolphin Yachting Center in Seabrook, on the east side of Clear Lake.

Dredge Spoils Become New Land

Marine Inc. has been dredging the east side of the basin where they will build open slips for a Blue Dolphin Yachting Center expansion.

"In the past four years, we have removed 180,000 cubic yards of fill in this dredging operation," Flanagan stated. "The basin was about only 3 feet deep to start with. The fill is stacked right here to dry out and build up the property."

All dredged spoils must be placed on an approved dredge disposal site, and this location received approval. Flanagan and the Blue Dolphin owners chose to dredge by excavation rather than hydraulic pumping.

"If you hydraulically pump it, it takes years before it sets up enough to where the property owner can reuse the property again," said Flanagan. "Property is getting so expensive around this area that you don't want to mess it up with dredge spoil. That is one of the reasons we've been dredging with excavators. It comes out of the water a lot drier than if it was pumped and it's easier to dry it on the ground and develop a decent piece of property."

Marine Inc. designs and builds its own boats and barges for mounted equipment. They have constructed a smaller barge, about half the size of the larger standard barge, to allow their Hyundai 130 to maneuver in shallow water.

Just across Blue Dolphin Road and a narrow strip of land, Marine, Inc. is currently constructing another boathouse shed for the Blue Dolphin and dredging for a marina expansion. This shed, like the others built over the past few years for the yachting center, is 130 feet wide by 300 feet long and will house 24 yachts up to 60 feet in length.

The 75-foot-long pilings were driven 34 feet into the ground with a rented dragline that was outfitted with a pile driving hammer mounted on a barge.

Jennings Island

A short distance to the south, the Seabrook Shipyard has contracted Marine Inc. for maintenance dredging and rehab where they plan to add floating docks primarily for sail boats. This marina lies adjacent to Jennings Island, where the Jennings Island Development Corporation is preparing to build twin 20-story residential high rises. Designed by Ziegler Cooper Architects, the residences will offer views of both Galveston Bay and Clear Lake.

The dredge material from the Seabrook Marina is being placed on Jennings Island to build up the property. "We're putting about 600 cubic yards per day on the ground there now," said Flanagan, whose son Skipper has been operating a Hyundai 210 LC with a long reach and one-yard bucket. He is able to accumulate 300 cubic yards of material on the barge and averages three barge loads per day, according to Flanagan.

Machines For Marine Environment

While renting large equipment for specialty projects makes sense, the Flanagans own seven excavators, wheel loaders and small tractors — the workhorses of their operation — all purchased from Alvin Equipment Company.

In all, Flanagan also owns seven Hyundai excavators, two long stick 120 LCs; a standard 120; one 130, one 140, two smaller models, a wheel loader and two small Kubota tractors that he also purchased from Alvin Equipment Co.

"I've been a customer of Alvin Equipment since the late 1960s when Chad's father and grandfather still ran the business," said Flanagan. "I used to buy a lot of used equipment from them, but later I found out that it's better to buy new."

"There's been a lot of loyalty built up both ways over the years," said Chad Beaver, president of Alvin Equipment Company. "We bend over backward to provide good service."

Alvin Equipment carries the full Hyundai line of construction machinery. Flanagan likes the Cummins engines in the Hyundai excavators and the hours of service he gets from them. In this hostile environment of salt water and silt, good mechanical construction is important. The pivot points, pins and bushings on the arm are durable and generally low-maintenance, according to Beaver.

Flanagan's most recent purchase is a Hyundai 210LC-7A long reach. "The new 7A models have chrome-plated pins in the bucket, arm and boom linkage, which is expected to provide even longer usage," Beaver explained. "The bushings are designed for extended lubrication periods. The whole linkage has extended life compared to earlier models."

Because Flanagan's excavators operate in harsh saltwater conditions, they use special grease called AquaShield, a DA Stuart product designed to adhere to metal and O-Ring surfaces when submersed in the saltwater. Even using this grease, they manually grease their machines at least four to five times per day. When convenient, they use fresh water to rinse the machine off to fight corrosion. On occasion, a spray-on rust inhibitor is also used to fight the rust provided by the harsh salt water conditions.

As Texas Gulf Coast boating facilities expand for the region's growing leisure market, Marine Inc. will be helping developers create safe and friendly ports of call.