News and information for the worldwide dredging industry

Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print

Environment Front and Center at the WEDA Annual Meeting, Vancouver

WEDA's Environmental Commission meets prior to WEDA Annual Meeting

Even before the opening ceremony of its Annual Meeting, WEDA’s Environmental Commission was at work. The pre-conference meeting was to review events of the past year and make plans for the future. Craig Vogt, the chair of the commission, started the discus­sion by describing the historical context of the commission’s existence after which the some 30 attendees introduced themselves.

Anna Csiti, managing director of the Cen­tral Dredging Association, the European/Afri­can sister organization of WEDA, headquar­tered in the Netherlands, gave a rundown of the many activities going on in her part of the world. These included the preparation of a new ‘environmental book’ in cooperation with the International Association of Dredging Com­panies (IADC), with the working title “Dredg­ing for Sustainable Development”. The book is due for publication and presentation at CEDA Dredging Days in November of this year.

Michael Gerhardt, deputy director of Dredging Contractors of America, then of­fered a summary of the complex budgetary discussions going on in the U.S. federal gov­ernment. In fact the US Army Corps and pro­jected dredging projects are doing well in 2017 with projections for 2018 also looking positive.

As the meeting continued, a robust conver­sation about the goals of the WEDA Environ­mental Commission gained momentum and notably two concrete conclusions were reached – one involving groups that WEDA should be targeting to support the industry, and the other concerning the accessibility of the WEDA web­site to those non-WEDA members.

Following up on the decisions of the meet­ing, Vogt has sent an email to the WEDA chapter presidents, explaining that “As a re­sult of the meetings of the WEDA Environ­mental Commission and a good discussion at the WEDA Board of Directors, we are going to target ‘regulators’ for attendance at Chap­ter Meetings, develop a three-hour seminar on Dredging 101, and promote WEDA as the source of information on dredging and associ­ated environmental issues.”

He continued, “As you are aware, most federal (outside of the USACE) and state/ provincial regulators and resource agency staff and managers are not aware of WEDA and few are members of WEDA. Many are new to their jobs (e.g., turnover) and have limited knowl­edge of dredging and the environmental issues associated with dredging. In many cases, this has led to a less than efficient process towards permit issuance for dredging projects, both navigation and environmental dredging.

“To address these issues, we want to collect names and email addresses of those ‘regula­tors’ and then follow that up with several ac­tions: (1) invitations to chapter meetings, (2) invitations to the annual Summit and Expo, (3) encourage membership in WEDA, and (4) improvements to the website and what is offered in the way of information, lists of ex­perts/speakers, fact sheets, technical referenc­es. As part of this initiative, we are developing a brief introduction to dredging and environ­mental issues, calling it Dredging 101. This is envisioned initially as a three-hour work­shop/seminar to be conducted prior to your chapter meeting (starting next year if it can be arranged). The workshop may eventually be offered as a webinar in conjunction with a chapter meeting or separately.” The assistance of Steve Garbaciak has been enlisted and con­tact details should be sent to him by August 31 at Steve.Garbaciak@foth.com.

Don Hayes, chair of the Training Commit­tee on the WEDA Board of Directors, is the lead on developing Dredging 101. Hayes is also working with the Board and Tom Cappellino to open the access to technical papers from past WEDA conferences to non-WEDA mem­bers. Other members are looking at improve­ments to the website and the material offered.

As one committee member said, “WEDA possesses a broad base of information. Pres­ently we hide this information on our website. We need to break down the firewall so any­one who wants to be educated can access the knowledge.”

ENVIRONMENTAL COMMISSION PLENARY PANEL

Bookending the Environmental Commis­sion meeting of the first day was the Environ­mental Plenary meeting on the last day. Orga­nizing this presentation is one of the primary tasks of the commission and true to form an expert panel provided insights into the work going on in the host country, Canada. “A West Coast Tour of Canada’s Dredging and Disposal Issues and Opportunities” offered attendees an understanding of some of the uniquely Ca­nadian challenges confronted by the newly renamed Environment and Climate Change Canada agency (previously known as Environ­ment Canada).

A six-member panel from the agency and the Port of Vancouver covered a range of sub­jects, from science-based studies to sociologi­cal outreach to indigenous communities, past and present disposal issues. Adam La Rusic led the way by outlining the basic areas that are of concern in the Canadian Pacific and Yukon ar­eas. Critical issues that stem from the London Convention of 1972 and the London Protocol of 1976 Disposal at Sea can be summarized as:

• the maintenance dredging of the Fraser River and the indigenous engagement, that is consulting and interaction with the First Nations;

• the preservation and protection of the killer whales which includes the monitoring of PCBs;

• environmental impact assessments for new dredging projects taking place to the north of Vancouver;

• the impacts of wood wasters on sea life; and

• the disposal of vessels.

From the Environmental Canada agency, Celia Wong reported on the state of the Sal­ish Sea and the nine active disposal sites. She was followed by Justin Lo, another environ­mental scientist from Health Canada, who elaborated on the presence of PCBs – legacy contamination versus permits for present-day developments, and their effects on the envi­ronment and the diminishing population of killer whales.

Taking on the seriousness of communicating on these subjects was Garth Mullins, a sociolo­gist with the agency. He described the outreach efforts made to negotiate ‘nation to nation’, that is, Canada to the First Nations, about ocean life, contaminants from pulp mills and development projects. Since First Nations de­pend heavily on seafood as a staple, everything that happens in the water concerns them. The civil rights of the indigenous people is defined in the Canadian legal landscape as well as in the United Nations support through its “Dec­laration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”.

Another unique challenge is the disposal of wood waste, which was addressed by Rebecca Seifert from the agency. Given the significant economic contribution of the Canadian lumber industry, controlling the transport of logs on the waterways and the adverse impacts and the role in dredging to remediate this is an urgent issue. Lastly, Charlotte Olson, from the Port Author­ity of Vancouver, spoke on the port’s “Habitat Enhancement Program” and its efforts to dredge and dispose of sediments in a responsible way. In cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada, eleven sites have been desig­nated for beneficial use in this northwest region.

The questions and answers that followed the panels presentation contributed to a better un­derstanding of the Canadian situation, some of the solutions they have found that can be ap­plicable elsewhere, but also the unique environ­mental challenges in this region of Canada.

Add your comment:
Edit Module