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Fast Disbursal of ARRA Funds; Hydrographic Surveying and Diesel Technology

The Corps of Engineers is to be commended for their administration of funds allocated to their program by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

The bill was passed on February 17, 2009, and we reported the first dredging-related ARRA contract on April 27. In our May/June 2009 issue, 15 Recovery Act contracts were announced, awarded from the end of April to the end of May. Since then, Recovery contracts have dominated our announcements. They are either projects that have been on hold for lack of funding, or extensions of existing contracts.

When the bill was passed, the Corps was ready for it, with a plan in place for handling the announcements and administering the contracts, which range from very small to very large. The program is truly an investment in the navigation infrastructure of the nation, and the Corps proved that they are capable of handling a program of enormous magnitude.

ARRA has been of immense value to the nation’s shipping industry, aiding in the expansion of entrance channels and internal channels of the ports to prepare for post-Panamax vessels, and restoring guaranteed depths in our inland navigation channels, so the depths can be relied upon by commercial and recreational vessels alike.

From a safety point of view, restoring channels, especially shallow-water channels, to a reliable depth has eliminated the danger of running aground, which can be a life-threatening situation in ocean inlets and rivers with fast currents.

At the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association meeting last November, a chilling aside to the shoaling problem was pointed out. Boaters have been leaving the waterway to avoid dangerously-shoaled areas, and transiting the section in the ocean. These boaters frequently run aground on offshore sandbars during low tide, and then are overtaken by the tide, sometimes with tragic consequences.

Maintaining these stretches in a reliable manner will eliminate this horrific scenario, and providing federal funding through ARRA makes it possible for the states to make this a priority.

Our special features in this issue are hydrographic surveying, and propulsion and power systems – both experiencing great change.

In a conversation with Woody Holton about our lead article on surveying and placement site engineering in Virginia, I posed the theory that he had probably lived through most of the advances in hydrographic surveying that have taken place in the entire history of the human race. He said “yes, I did use lead lines, wooden skiffs (with bailing buckets), oars, taglines, sextants, transits and other archaic things 47 years ago. Prior to that, the most significant advance was probably the outboard motor.”

The Clean Air Act of 1970 required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to bring about increasingly more stringent reductions in emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in a tiered approach. Diesel engine manufacturers have complied with an amazing application of new technology in the years since the law was passed.
We are now up to Tier 4, which begins to apply in 2011, and manufacturers have announced their Tier 4 engines, which require 90 percent reduction in particulate (soot) emissions and a 50 percent reduction in NOx over the Tier 3 engines. Nitrogen oxides react with sunlight and other substances in the atmosphere to create ground-level ozone, or smog. (Thanks to John Deere for that description.)

The innovations applied to engine manufacture that create these improvements are as revolutionary as the changes in hydrographic survey technology. As it is, our reports are only the tip of the information iceberg. The details will provide much fascinating reporting in our pages in the future.
Judith Powers
Editor

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