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WEDA Midwest Chapter Meeting Increases Attendance

WEDA Midwest Chapter President James Wescott, Treasurer Steve Garbaciak, Secretary Greg Smith, Jennifer Hagan, past president and program manager, and Tom Verna, WEDA executive director. Vice President Karl Schmitz of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District, not pictured, will replace Wescott for the next term. Hagan stepped down from the board this year, and Wescott will take her position.

WEDA Midwest Chapter President James Wescott, Treasurer Steve Garbaciak, Secretary Greg Smith, Jennifer Hagan, past president and program manager, and Tom Verna, WEDA executive director. Vice President Karl Schmitz of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District, not pictured, will replace Wescott for the next term. Hagan stepped down from the board this year, and Wescott will take her position.

About 80 members of the Western Dredging Association (WEDA) Midwest chapter met in Milwaukee at the Doubletree by Hilton from March 11 to 13.

Matt Walz of Walz Scale presented Walz Volumetric Load Scanning.

Outgoing President James Wescott of Tetra Tech, Inc. said attendance is up and finances are good for the chapter. Incoming president Karl Schmitz, of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District will replace Wescott for the next term. Schmitz will serve until April 2017. Wescott will become program manager and past president and current past president, Jennifer Hagen will step down from the board after a long tenure. Remaining on the board is Greg Smith of J.F. Brennan Co., Inc., and Steve Garbaciak of Foth Infrastructure & Environment, LLC. At the meeting in Milwaukee, the Midwest chapter elected its newest board member – Aaron Wright of Infrastructure Alternatives.

Tom Verna, WEDA executive director, gave the opening remarks in Milwaukee. Verna talked mainly about the changes in WEDA, which only begin with his new leadership.

Christopher Robb of Natural Resource Technology presented In Situ Stabilization/Solidification (ISSI), Another Tool for Remediation of Contaminated Sediments.

WEDA has been focused in Latin America, and a chapter in Mexico has joined the four U.S. regional chapters. It has been a recent goal of WEDA to reinvigorate participation in Latin America, where chapters have been active and inactive through the years.

Verna said WEDA board member Michael Gerhardt of Dredging Contractos of America,  has worked closely to develop new chapters in Latin America and has been instrumental in pursuing participation there. In April, Gerhardt will travel to Mexico for the first Mexico chapter meeting.

WEDA is also organizing a meeting in Panama to coincide with the dedication of the new locks at the Panama Canal. Verna said WEDA is also working on establishing connections in Brazil. 

Corey Wilcox from CH2M Hill presented Lincoln Park Phase 1 Habitat Restoration, along with Huck Raddemann (not pictured).

Along with new chapters in Latin America, Verna said that WEDA has a new student chapter at the University of New Orleans. The chapter was founded in December 2014 and will work closely with the WEDA Gulf Coast chapter. To groom a younger generation of membership, WEDA is looking to establish other student organizing, namely at Texas A&M and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 

Verna said WEDA is also trying to attract high school students, in partnership with the North American Marine Enviromental Protenction Association, to start student chapters. It’s important to attract the younger generation, “and get some new blood,” he said. 

Randy Pit of Geo-Synthetic, LLC presented The Use of Geotextile Tubes to Create an Emergent Wetland Forbay.

Overall, WEDA has about 1,000, Verna said. As of late, attendance by the Corps of Engineers members has been severely hampered by government oversight and approvals. Verna said WEDA is getting better at helping its Corps members get approvals to attend the conferences. At the annual conference in Honolulu in 2014, four Corps of Engineers employees attended; in 2015, in Toronto, four attended; and Verna said this year, 23 members were on the list requesting approvals, and WEDA has been working specifically on the rhetoric and justification needed to gain those approvals. 

“WEDA is mission critical,” Verna said. “That’s the key wording – mission critical to support the Corps’ navigation mission.”

Mike Donahue of URS and Boris Slogar of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District won the speaker award for their presentation, Implementing a Long-term Maintenance Dredging Program: Accomplishments and Lessons Learned.

Verna spoke about other recent improvements made by WEDA, including improved communications, namely with the website and electronic communications.

Verna said the newest board of directors is very interested in improving the organization. “They’re very active. They don’t sit back and meet once a year,” Verna said.

To improve the annual conference, the board established an events committee. “We  want to make sure that the venues for the annual conference are pertinent, and not just in the U.S.,” Verna said. Houston was chosen for the 2015 conference because travel-wise, it’s easy to get in and out of, and centrally located in the U.S., while also a closer locale for Latin American members that want to attend.

Mike Ellis of Barr Engineering presented Designing Dredge Prisms to Remove Impacted Sediments While Protecting Infrastructure.

The annual conference has also changed its dates to accommodate recommendations from members requesting that the conference start on Monday, rather than Sunday. The 2015 Dredging Summit & Expo will be from June 22 to 25.

Verna said WEDA leadership also revised the annual awards. The number of awards was increased, as well as the award amounts.

After Verna’s opening, WEDA Midwest chapters heard a number of presentations about dredging projects and issues pertinent to the area. The presentations included Navigational Dredging in the Detroit Harbor, Washington  Island, Wisconsin Permitting and Management by Ken Potrykus, Foth Infrastructure and Environment; Sediment Cleanout on a Small Retirement Community Detention Basin by Bill Santelik, Integrated Lake Management; Building Habitat; Navigating the Vessel General Permit With Regards to EALs by Scott Kovanda, American Chemical Technologies; ECCS Mobile Labs; River Raisin Investigation – Field and Laboratory Verification Techniques for an Interim Sand and Organoclay in Situ Cap to Address PCB Contamination in the River Raisin by Rich Weber, Natural Resorce Technoloyg, Inc.; and River Raisin NAPL Area – Where do we go from here? by Andrew Corbin, AnchorQEA.

George Hicks presents Optimization of Arsenic Sediment Remediation in Lower Menominee River Area.

Mike Donahue of URS and Boris Slogar from the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District won the speaker award for their presentation Implementing a Long-term Maintenance Dredging Program: Accomplishments and Lessons Learned.

Tony Troche of Cardno presented Building Habitat: Post-Dredging Restoration Design Considerations at Onondaga Lake.

The next WEDA Midwest chapter meeting will take place in Rock Island, Illinois in 2016.

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