East Coast Dredging Issues Widely Covered At Charleston Meeting
The program was an in-depth look at dredging projects, Corps of Engineers policies and contractor concerns on the East Coast.
Speakers from most of the Corps Districts in the North Atlantic and South Atlantic Divisions gave comprehensive reports on ongoing and planned projects, as well as situations affecting dredging and contracting, such as overdepth dredging, bidding on "base plus" items, pre-bid meetings, contractor input, the projected effect of the Panama Canal expansion, and more.
Jeff McKee, reporting on the effects of the Panama Canal expansion on U.S. ports, said "Many of our coastal ports are reaching capacity. Traffic is expected to increase exponentially in the next 10 years." It will be necessary to increase channel dimensions and land-side container handling capacity, he said. "If we don't get the planned projects by 2020, the constraints will increase dramatically," he said.
At the dinner in the Mills House Hotel, Jim Rausch announced his retirement as executive director of the Dredging Contractors of America, and members presented him with a cake designed to look like a plaque.
Several attendees and speakers stated that one of the most important concepts to be announced is summer hopper dredging, explained by Dena Dickerson during the Industry/Corps Hopper Dredge Management Group (ICHDMG) meeting on the final day.
Since 1992, hopper dredging in sea turtle habitat has been relegated to the winter months to avoid the summer turtle nesting season. Turtle expert Dena Dickerson of the Engineering Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, reported on research and observation of turtle protection measures that have been in place for more than a decade, with the result that with certain precautions and knowledge of the turtles' behavior, dredging can be done in turtle habitat during the summer months.
The guiding fact is that the only turtles taken by dredges are the ones resting on the bottom, and that a swimming turtle will naturally avoid a dredge. Dickerson cited statistics and facts learned from observing loggerhead, green, Kemps Ridley, leatherback and hawksbill turtles in the presence of dredges and suggested that the statistics need to be recorded by year, by dredge, by date and by turtle species.
Overall, the dredging industry's record regarding sea turtles is good. The recorded sea turtle take by dredges in 2007 was 27 turtles in the course of dredging 21,650,439 cubic yards throughout the turtle range. This is compared to an annual take of 10,000 turtles by the fishing industry.
The second day of the conference saw the hall arranged for a round table discussion, of changes in the hydrographic survey manual and other topics such as partnering, overdepth dredging, cost estimating, the silent inspector and change orders.
Barry Holliday led a discussion of the drive by the RAMP group (Realize America's Maritime Promise) to require use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for maintaining the navigation channels.
The date and location of next year's meeting will be announced.