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WEDA Environmental Commission Presents Sustainability in the Dredging Industry

On the Sustainability Panel, at the WODCON XXI conference, from right to left: Martha Robbart; René Kolman; Todd Bridges; Donald Hayes; Frederic Roose and Craig Vogt.

On the Sustainability Panel, at the WODCON XXI conference, from right to left: Martha Robbart; René Kolman; Todd Bridges; Donald Hayes; Frederic Roose and Craig Vogt.

“What is Sustainability? What does it mean in dredging projects?” Those were the questions that Craig Vogt, chair of the WEDA Environ-mental Commission, posed to launch the panel on sustainability that took place, June 17, the last day of the WODCON XXI conference, hosted by the Western Dredging Association (WEDA) in Miami, Florida. Moderator Frederic Roose, project coordinator at the Government of Flanders, and member of the Central Dredging Association (CEDA) introduced the panel members. They included Donald Hayes, chair and professor, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Construction, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; René Kolman, secretary general, International Association of Dredging Companies; Martha Robbart, the Southeast Florida regional manager for Dial Cordy and Associates; and Todd S. Bridges, senior research scientist, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Each panel member presented his or her insight on sustainability: Is it a fad? How is it applied to dredging per se? What is the industry doing now? What can it do in the future? 

Panelists also touched on another question, one many of them had very different answers for: if and how can dredging contribute to sustainability?

Hayes suggested the use of a rating system for sustainable infrastructure like the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Kolman focused on “Building with Nature” – contractor initiative, the development of the Ecosystem Services framework and the importance of managing emissions from dredging vessels. Robbart, using the Port of Miami as a case study, discussed the need for monitoring during projects, for instance, the reefs and coral and asked that more attention be paid to the complex ecosystem’s multiple stressors in the channel. She also raised the question of too much monitoring and if too many studies just delay and increase costs of a project. Her suggestion was that improving the communication of results based on real-time data would help stakeholders distinguish between natural stressors and what the dredging projects actually have done. Bridges emphasized the need to update regulations in the U.S., to implement Engineering with Nature concepts, and to have a long-term view adapting projects to nature, as well as to engage stake-holders and partners. 

Questions and comments from the audience continued the brain-storming about the meaning of sustainability, what measures can or should be implemented, and other issues, such as do large projects and small projects deserve the same scrutiny, and where money can best be spent to ensure sustainability. 

Finally, Roose and Vogt both sought to define the role of CEDA, WEDA and the Eastern Dredging Association (EADA) in promoting the positive role of dredging toward creating a sustainable world. As Roose concluded, “Our role should be to inform the public about what the benefits of dredging are.”  

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