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Contractors Gather in Washington D.C. for Annual Dredging Meeting

“Economic recovery, coastal protection and environment restoration – it all starts with dredging.”

That all-encompassing statement by Bill Hanson says it all.

Hanson, who is vice president of business development at Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, was among several speakers emphasizing the importance of timely dredging of waterways, ports, harbors and coastal channels at the National Dredging Meeting May 24 and 25 in Washington, D.C.
Among the highlights of the meeting was the annual reception hosted by the Dredging Contractors of America (DCA).

At the reception, Angela Y. Premo received the 2011 William R. Murden Lifetime Public Service Achievement Award. Premo, who retired in March after a 33-year career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, held many management positions, including her last one as chief of operations and regulatory at the Corps’ Southwestern Division in Dallas, Texas.

In a presentation focusing on “marketing dredging projects,” Hanson led off with the declaration that “the future – with the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund – depends on efficiency.”

Efficiency, Hanson said, has many facets and it always centers around costs among the dredging stakeholders – the Corps, ports and coastal communities, regulators and dredgers. Most of all, Hanson said, any dredging dialogue needs to be transparent, purposeful, effective and humble.
A “transparent” dialogue, he said, must include an explanation of dredging’s challenges, and a discussion of new specifications and pipeline crossings.

“Don’t assume, be prepared, listen to concerns, and answer questions,” Hanson cautioned. Everyone in dredging, he said, “is a salesman.”

While explaining dredging’s challenges, Hanson told dredgers, they should demonstrate that they are engineers and problem solvers, that they consider all project costs, and that they are flexible.

“Ultimately,” he added, “that is how we are judged.”
James E. Walker, chief of the Corps’ Navigation and Operations Branch, discussed some specifics of a strategic plan for the Corps’ navigation program. The strategic plan focused on four areas, Walker said. The areas would communicate the value of the navigation program, improve business processes, manage the Marine Transportation System (MTS) as a system, and develop a human capital management strategy for navigation.

The communication area included development and implementation of an active coordinated outreach/communications plan and the development of a long-view interaction/communications strategy within the administration.

To improve the business processes, the Corps would establish an Action Team to prioritize and develop recommendations for the improvement of business processes and the implementation of asset management.
Another area of the strategic plan calls for using the national strategy for the MTS to draft a freight transportation policy with goals focused on waterborne transportation. The fourth area targeted by the strategic plan – development of a human capital management strategy – calls for the drafting of a definition of navigation career path, the building of a workforce, and identifying funding for human capital development.

The “next steps,” Walker said would include recruiting leaders and members for the Action Team, establishing a coastal navigation network, preparing for the new chief of engineers, and scheduling an update for the fall of 2011.
Discussing the benefits of pre-solicitation conferences was Sheryl Carrubba of the Corps’ Portland District, who said that the purpose of such meetings is to provide a forum for “open and honest communication between the contractor community and the government.” Such a forum, she added, would result in “a successful contract.”

Some of the tangible benefits of such conferences, she said, are early contractor involvement; fewer amendments, modifications and claims; market surveys and equipment availability; and the upfront resolution of potential issues.

There also are intangible benefits, Carrubba said. They would include teamwork between industry and government, and “the spirit of partnering.”

A presentation on the Dredging Information System (DIS) was delivered by Virginia R. Pankow who deals with navigation economics at the Institute of Waterway Resources, Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.

The DIS, a national database that tracks all Corps dredging from advertisement to completion, contains dredging location and amount; dates for advertising, bid opening, contract awards and estimated start and end of dredging; dredge, work and contract types; and government estimates and winning bid/bidders. The DIS Product Delivery Team expanded the advertising schedule to include the separate listing of unawarded work and a 15-month bar chart of hopper work, Carrubba added.

The importance of Regional Sediment Management (RSM) to navigation was discussed by Linda S. Lillycrop, program manager, Regional Sediment Management at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, Mississippi. Lillycrop said that RSM improves channel availability; reduces dredging frequency and quantity, thus reducing expenses; optimizes the use of sediments through adaptive management, and improves partnerships and collaboration.

“Sustainable Dredging” was the title of a presentation made by Todd S. Bridges, senior environmental research scientist at the Research and Development Center in Vicksburg.
Navigation dredging has its problems and opportunities, Bridges said. The problems include cost and time pressures on dredging operations, and constraints generated from environmental issues and conflicts.

The opportunities, he said, include development of broad-based support for the navigation program, and a chance to change the paradigm that pits navigation interests against environmental interests. In the past, Bridges said, sustainability meant maximizing economic benefits while minimizing environmental damage. In the future, Bridges said, sustainable dredging would expand and optimize the distribution of benefits within the system and across all three domains – environment, social and economic.
Introducing the Low Use Navigation Pilot Program to attendees was George Nieves, regional asset manager in the Corps’ North Atlantic Division. (see related article on page 6)

The purpose of the program is to find alternate, non-traditional ways to accomplish maintenance of low-use harbors and waterways. Low-use projects offer a number of returns to the nation, Nieves said, including support of commercial fishing, subsistence harbors, public transportation, energy supplies and U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue operations.

Nieves also said there are a number of ways that the pilot program can be used to develop methods to maintain the projects. Among other things, he said, the program provides technical knowledge of dredging to the sponsors and can educate sponsors on how to obtain non-traditional funding from non-Corps sources.

Furthermore, he said, the program can be used for sediment testing, disposal site sizing and identification, and dredged material placement alternatives.

On hand to brief the meeting on the Dredging Quality Management (DQM) national program was Clint Padgett, chief of the Spatial Data Branch in the Corps’ Mobile (Alabama) District.

Padgett said the program, a Corps-dredging industry partnership for automated dredge monitoring, has several annual goals. They include efforts to improve several initiatives, such as the timeliness of the data, customer support, the dependability of the system, partnership with industry, and the quality of the data.

Ahead for the program can be seen a dredging analysis tool, near-real time scow data, pipeline evaluation, DQM payment estimates in real-time status and a national DQM technical advisory team. The team would work with industry in technical issues and develop the scope for next-generation tools.

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