Saturday, 15 July 2006

History of Dredged Material Management and Usage in the United States.

Christina C. Kennedy, US Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center, 3909 Halls Ferry Rd., Vicksburg, MS 39180

Dredging has been actively conducted in the United States since the inception of the General Survey Act of 1824, which established the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as the Federal water resource agency with the primary responsibility to construct and maintain the nation's water navigation system. Today, the USACE is responsible for maintaining 25,000 miles of navigation channels and over 400 major and minor ports. Annual maintenance of these channels results in the collection of more than 400 million cubic yards of dredged material. Dredging is defined as the removal of sediment in lakes, rivers, and harbors to improve the overall depth of a water navigation channel. Dredging is typically conduced to maintain or deepen existing channels used for commerce and recreation, or to create new navigation channels. Ninety-five percent of imported and exported products in the United States pass through ports such as those in New York-New Jersey, New Orleans, Houston, Long Beach, and Seattle. Technological advancements, competitiveness, and the need to improve cost effectiveness have resulted in larger, more efficient cargo ships requiring deeper and wider channel depths. The USACE usually issues dredging contracts with private industry to accomplish dredging operations and has the responsibility to issue permits for non-federal dredging projects under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), Section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), and Section 10 of the River and Harbors Act (RHA). Section 404 of the CWA details regulations for disposal and discharge of dredged material into inland waters. The MPRSA covers transportation of dredged material for ocean disposal and Section 103 authorizes the USACE to issue permits for ocean disposal. However, ocean disposal is only authorized at Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Sites designated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Section 10 of the RHA prohibits the alteration of navigation channels with the construction of bridges, dams, dikes, or other such structures without the approval of the USACE and the Secretary of the Army. These regulatory programs are designed to help reduce or prevent the impact dredging may have on the environment. Many of the nation's busiest ports are located near environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands, fisheries, and estuaries. Technical frameworks have been developed to guide federal agencies when evaluating the environmental acceptability of dredged material management alternatives. Historically, ocean placement and confined disposal facility (CDF) placement have been the two most common methods of managing dredged material. However, due to increasing demands for port dredging, and environmental concerns of ocean placement, many confined disposal facilities in operation have reached maximum capacity. Beneficial uses of dredged material began to be explored in the 1970's and continues to be one of the most desirable and cost-effective ways of managing dredged material today. This paper will track the progression of dredged material management in the United States and discuss the impacts of environmental policy and planning on long-term dredging projects and material placement.

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