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Gulf Coast Chapter Meeting Featured Coastal Restoration Talks; New Officers Elected

The Western Dredging Association (WEDA) Gulf Coast Chapter meeting, held on November 19 and 20, featured talks on the restoration of the Louisiana coastline, which gave the attendees a good idea of some of the individual projects and initiatives being used in that gargantuan effort.

Seventy-eight WEDA members gathered at the Weston Hotel in New Orleans for the meeting, which included election of new officers in addition to the half-day technical program. An ice breaker was held in the 11th floor Plimsol Club on the evening of Wednesday the 19th. The meeting began on Thursday morning with opening remarks by the new Executive Director Tom Verna, who outlined the structure of the national organization and its relationship to the network of worldwide organizations that comprise the World Organization of Dredging Associations (WODA).

After Verna’s address, Kenneth Bahlinger, of the Louisiana Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority (CPRA) described recent and future coastal restoration projects in Louisiana, comparing the minimal resources available in 1990 with the vastly superior equipment, engineering, funding and amount land creation possible in 2014.

Josh Carter of Coast & Harbor Engineering presented Cameron Parish Shoreline Restoration Project, with its goal of restoring the Cameron Parish Barrier Headland, protecting 30,000 acres of freshwater wetlands and a State Highway.

P.J. Hahn is director of Coastal Zone Management for Plaquemines Parish, which encompasses the Mississippi River from New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico. In his talk, entitled Plaquemines Parish Shoreline Restoration Master Plan & Cat Island Project, Hahn described the construction of “forested ridges” adjacent to the levees, replenishment of wetlands and redevelopment of barrier islands, specifically West Cat Island, which has virtually disappeared.

William Slaughter of SSA Consultants gave a presentation on Winning the Talent War and Developing a High-Performance Team, providing input on management and building an effective team that would apply to everyone in the room, including large and small businesses and COE managers, according to Charles Johnson, who organized the meeting.

Sean Duffy of the Big River Coalition reported on RAMP (Realize America’s Maritime Promise) and the impact of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA 2014), focusing on the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico.

Capt. George Ricks of the Save Louisiana Coalition presented “Dredge, Don’t Divert,” in which he described the negative effects of large water diversion structures, with suggestions for better solutions involving dredging. 

K.C. Clark, chapter president, chaired the business meeting, where new officers were elected. Charles Johnson of DSC Dredge is the new president, Jeff Corbino of the Corps of Engineers New Orleans District is vice president, Troy Schulz of DSC Dredge is treasurer, Linda DeFoe of DSC Dredge is secretary, and Michelle Daigle and Ashley Wainright of the New Orleans District are program directors.

Talking to IDR after the meeting, Johnson said that he hopes to expand participation in the chapter to include the entire area it covers – the western boundaries of Georgia and Florida, and the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The chapter meeting has always been held in New Orleans, he said, and he believes that holding the meeting in a different city each year will bring in more speaker, officer and attendee participation.

“I think, for the first year, since the officers are from the New Orleans area, we would host the next meeting in New Orleans, but with a higher level of planning, sponsorship and vendor support. This would help ‘set the bar’ for the other venue locales like Mobile, Tampa, and Houston,” Johnson said.

To facilitate the annual turnover of officers, he suggested changing the accounts to a large regional bank and initiate online banking with authorization easily transferred to new officers. He also suggested setting up a New Orleans post office box for the chapter, with a forwarding order to the officers, updated when new officers are elected. In the past, the chapter address was the president’s personal address. Other records will be kept electronically, also easily transferred to the new officers. He also plans to review the by-laws for possible updating, if needed.

“At the time of the chapter meeting, the following year’s meeting should be scheduled and the venue booked,” Johnson said. This will allow people to plan their schedule for the next year.

“This would be quite a bit to accomplish in the first year, and if we accomplish the majority of this I would be happy,” he said.

Johnson called many contractors and vendors to request sponsorship of the meeting, and they responded generously, with a total of $8,000 donated. Gold Sponsors ($1,000) were Dutra Dredging, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock, DSC Dredge, Orion Marine Group, Manson Construction and Weeks Marine. Silver sponsors ($500) were Cable Arm, Dredging Contractors of America, Bean Dredging, and Neptune Flotation. In prior years the top sponsorship amount was $4,500. These funds go to pay for coffee breaks, the ice breaker and supplies, allowing reduced registration fees for attendees.

The Corps New Orleans District held its Mississippi Valley Division (MVD)/Gulf Coast Regional Dredging Meeting on Tuesday, November 18. The WEDA meeting was scheduled the following day in order to allow people to attend both meetings.

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