The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District will christen its newest named vessel in honor of the late Thomas George, captain of the Corps’ dredge Potter, in a ceremony to be attended by his family, his peers and Corps teammates at the St. Louis Service Base July 15.

The spill barge Thomas N. George is the realization of its namesake’s vision. As captain of the St. Louis District’s Dredge Potter, George worked for years to bring to life an innovation that will improve versatility and provide ecological benefits from dredging on the Mississippi River.

George’s vision was to use a flexible pipeline with the Corps’ dustpan dredges that help keep the river open for barge traffic. The Thomas N. George completes the flexible pipe assembly at the end of the floating pipeline, where it can stay in position and direct the flow of dredged sediment. This allows the Corps of Engineers to reuse the dredged material beneficially, including building islands and river habitat.

Standard dredging practices limit the opportunity to reuse dredged material because of the rigid metal disposal pipe. Normally dredged material is side-cast along the main channel border in a linear fashion, resulting in a long, narrow disposal bar that is limited in size, elevation, and location. With the flexible pipeline, dredged material can be placed independently of the dredge as it moves. The spill barge was designed and constructed by a composite team comprised of Marine Design Center, St. Louis District Service Base team and their contracting assets. The earliest design for the specialized spill barge was conceived by George, who colleagues credit with moving his concept to reality through a mix of tenacity, creativity and decades of experience on the river. The Corps team, finishing what George started, look at their work as a tribute to their departed friend and leader.

Thomas N. George served the Corps for more than two decades, including in the Memphis District aboard the dredge Burgess, dredge Hurley and motor vessel Mississippi, as well as St. Louis as master of the dredge Potter. Before coming to the Corps he worked in the river towing industry beginning in 1974 for Brent Towing Company. He became part of river history by serving as navigator on three Mississippi River Challenge speedboat races from New Orleans to St. Louis. His teams – led by Mike Reagan (son of the late President Ronald Reagan), actor Don Johnson and inventor Howard Arneson – always won, each time setting a new record. Their team ultimately cut the previous transit time in half. George passed away in his sleep April 5, 2013, aboard the dredge Potter at Ensley Engineer Yard in Memphis, Tenn., close to the river he loved.