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WEDA Midwest Chapter Meets in St. Louis

About 80 WEDA members and speakers gathered in St. Louis for the 2013 conference.

About 80 WEDA members and speakers gathered in St. Louis for the 2013 conference.

A large group of around 80 met for the Western Dredging Association (WEDA) 2013 Midwest Chapter meeting in St. Louis, April 17 – 19. The meeting, Midwest Dredging: Successes and Challenges, included an opening evening reception at HoteLumiére and two days of presentations. Attendees also visited America’s Central Port, just north of downtown St. Louis on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River and toured The Boeing Company facility.

Larry Patella, WEDA executive director, called the event one of the Midwest Chapter’s best endeavors.

In his opening remarks, WEDA Executive Director Larry Patella said, “I am also aware that we could not achieve that most important goal without the aid and support of WEDA members and its chapters or without chapters that are professionally run by outstanding Individuals, such as the Midwest Chapter President Paul Machajewski, Vice President Jennifer Kahler and Treasurer Jim Wescott.”

After an opening welcome from Jennifer Kahler of Natural Resource Technology and WEDA Midwest Chapter vice president, Patella spoke on the state of the organization.

“As you know, WEDA’s primary goal and objective is to promote the exchange of information and knowledge in fields related to dredging, navigation, marine engineering and construction, as well as the enhancement of the marine environment,” Patella said.

He said the organization, which began October 1, 1979, continues to build on that foundation, growing from a series of board of director meetings, to an annual national meeting with technical paper programs, trade shows and social events.* 

 “With your support, we have not only become educators, WEDA has over the years become the recognized center of dredging excellence throughout the Western Hemisphere, if not the world,” Patella added.

Vice President Jennifer Kahler of Natural Resource Technology welcomed the crowd.

Dredging, Patella said, is an important factor in creating a strong economy and cleaner environment. WEDA’s influence with educational institutions, namely Texas A&M, and the environmental community, has broadened the organization’s ability to educate individuals and corporations and initiate important programs, such as the Safety Commission, aimed at reducing or eliminating fatalities and injuries.

“What many may not be aware of is that educational aspects of our association are most important. It is my opinion that 98 percent of the people throughout the Western Hemisphere do not have the foggiest idea what dredging is and why it is important. We need to educate them,” Patella said.

To highlight the importance of dredging and the lack of public awareness about its significance, Patella, who served in the U.S. Navy, ended with a sea story, from his time managing the Port of Portland navigation district. It was only in the aftermath of the Mount St. Helens eruption, when 21 ships became stranded in the Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington port areas, that the public took notice of the Port of Portland’s 30-inch hydraulic dredge, which maintained the Columbia River navigation channel.

Patella said this lack of awareness persists today, and he finds it bothersome that most are unaware that if for some reason navigation channels were not dredged, “shelves in grocery and other commercial outlets would be empty in a relatively short period of time.”


Technical Presentation Highlights

On Thursday, a presentation by Mark Henrikson of Durocher Marine and John Sawyer of ARC Surveying, entitled Rock Pinnacle Surveying on the Mississippi River, outlined the removal of rock pinnacles that jeopardized river barge transportation. Low water levels near Thebes, Illinois also exacerbated the conditions. Henrikson outlined the project details of the rock and sediment dredging, including the schedule, equipment, on-site work, and the lessons learned. Sawyer outlined the pre-excavation surveying, sonar scanning, and the post-blast and after-dredge clearance surveys.

Before his presentation, Bill Hanson of Great Lakes Dredge and Dock encouraged his industry colleagues to champion the successes of the industry, as much as point out its challenges.

Greg Burleson of American Chemical Technologies, Inc., presented Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants (EALs): Alternatives to Petroleum Oil. On March 28, the EPA released new regulations, effective December 19, 2013, for environmentally acceptable lubricants, under the Vessel General Permit (VGP), which regulates vessel discharges. An important change from the 2008 VGP, Burleson noted, is the change in wording. 2008 VGPs required Environmentally Friendly Lubricants (EFLs), and the 2013 VGP has changed from EFLs to EALs – Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants. The new 120-page document outlines the difference between EFLs and EALs. EPA aims to reduce the environmental impact of conventional lubricants, which it measures in terms of superior biodegradation, and reduced aquatic toxicity and bioaccumulation.

The Army Corps’ only representative, Vern Gwin, USACE Mobil District, outlined the National Dredging Quality Management (DQM) Program. Gwin presented the annual DQM goals and new advances in technology and data collection. Gwin noted the Corps is implementing plans to monitor cutterhead dredges in its DQM Program, in addition to scows and hopper dredges. 

From the Colorado School of Mines, Chris Wyatt presented A Different Perspective on the Use of High Pressure Water Jets to Improve Performance of Rotary Cutterhead Dredges. Wyatt noted that while rotary cutter suction dredges can mine almost any material, their efficiency in doing so is limited. His research looks to limit bottom losses, material blockages and system inefficiencies with a system that uses a combination of cavitating water jets with a standard rotary cutter dredge.

Eric Bowman of EQM describes a project to remove contaminated material along Portage Creek in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Bill Hanson of Great Lakes Dredge and Dock talked about beneficial uses of dredged material, and made a good argument that this is not a new idea and well-embraced in the industry. Before his U.S. Dredgers and Beneficial Use presentation, Hanson also commented on some of the presentations before him. He was outspoken about the questions dredging contractors have with sharing their collection data with the Corps, as it relates to business operations and industry competition. Hanson also said it is the industry’s job to get the administration to take notice and weigh in on dredging and budget issues. 

In her presentation, Susan Metzger of the Kansas Water Office noted that Kansas is unique as the only state that owns a portion of the water stored in its federal reservoirs. It holds contracts with the Corps for that storage and operates the sale of the water. 

“Our reservoirs are in a battle with nature,” Metzger said. The artificial constructed reservoirs are efficient at trapping water, but also sediment, and they are silting at higher rates than anticipated. Nearly 60 percent of the energy produced in Kansas relies on reservoir storage. Metzer presented plans for a dredging project at John Redmond Reservoir. She also thanked WEDA members for the great help, guidance and education she got from organization members, as she planned this dredging project. WEDA members nearly unanimously voted her presentation as the best of the conference.

On Friday, George Hicks of CH2MHill discussed a dredging project at Waukegan Harbor in Illinois. The manmade 40-acre harbor has a federal navigation channel with an authorized depth of 18 feet LWD. It had not been dredged since the early 1970s because of PCBs. The approximately $42 million project involved constructing a containment facility, hydraulically dredging impacted sediments, dewatering the sediment using geotextile tubes, treating and discharging the water back into the harbor, and demolishing piers in the marina. The dredging should be completed in July of this year. The larger vision for the project aims “to return downtown Waukegan to its roots as a vibrant city center, a place for jobs, shopping, entertainment and urban living,” Hicks said.

Eric Bowman of EQM presented Portage Creek Sediment Remediation. He discussed the removal of contaminated sediment along Portage Creek and the rebuilding of the streambed and shoreline. The tight working area required clearing the shoreline area for operational access, and a cofferdam opened access to sections of the river at a time. An on-site dewatering and treatment operation restored the water, and the shoreline vegetation was repopulated after dredging.

In Evaluation of Groundwater Discharging to Surface Water – Adventures in the Hyporheic Zone, Gene McLinn of Burns and McDonnell discussed this area where ground and river water meet. The presentation explained the chemistry behind and the methodology for research done at a Grand River site to measure how much ammonia in groundwater from an upland landfill was reaching the river. The second part of the presentation looked at the Santa Ana River in Southern California, where researchers measured the discharges in the river from a five-mile perchlorate plume at the Stringfellow Acid Pits Superfund Site.

In his presentation, Scott Compston of Geosyntec made a solid case for customized core sampling methods.

Scott Compston of Geosyntec discussed how to achieve higher data quality in challenging sampling programs. His presentation highlighted customized sampling methods in a shallow water tidal estuary and in dense marshes. Where standard four-inch Vibracoring would require significant labor to process, a custom adapter to fit the four-inch core head to an eight-inch polycarbonate barrel, provided a better sample. In the dense marshes, samples were taken via box coring with a two-piece stainless steel sleeve. Like a guillotine, it cut easily through the dense roots on all sides, providing an uncompressed core.

Attendees gathered at an opening evening reception, Wednesday night before the start of the conference.

Other speakers and their topics included John Hull of Hull & Associates, Beneficial Use of Cleveland Harbor Dredged Material: Cuyahoga Valley Industrial Center; Troy A. Gawronski of Foth I&E, LLC, Small Commercial/Recreation Harbor Challenges in Great Lakes/Wisconsin; Tyler Lee and Mark Binsfeld, J.F. Brennan, River Raisin Area of Concern Remediation of Contaminated Sediments: Dredging, Residual Covering, and CDF Excavation Project; Dan Binkney, Anchor QEA, Remedial Dredging Design: From Soup to Nuts; John Collins, AquaBlok, Combined Remediation Approaches: Case Studies of Dredge Then Cap Applications; Huck Raddemann, CH2MHill, Rapid Confirmatory Sampling and Re-Dredge Decision-Making Sheboygan River.


The attendees were almost exclusively industry members, as budget challenges have limited Army Corps attendance at events. Only one Corps representative, Vern Gwin, USACE Mobile District, attended the Midwest conference.

Business Meeting

James Wescott of TetraTech and chapter president, reported on the chapter’s financials, led the election of a new chapter officer, and discussed potential venues for the next conference.

The members voted and elected Greg Smith of J.F. Brennan Company, Inc., as the newest treasurer, joining other WEDA Midwest Chapter Board members: Jennifer Kahler, P.E., president, James Wescott, P.E., vice president, Karl Schmitz, MVR, secretary, and Paul Machajewski, MVP, past president. 

Greg Burleson of American Chemical Technologies, Inc., presented Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants (EAL’s) Alternatives to Petroleum Oil.


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