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.Edit Module