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Some preliminary response report on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; Congress introduces HMTF bills

Containing spilled petroleum products is at the top of safety precautions in all floating plant. The worst case scenario now in progress in the Gulf and the responses to it will provide new “lessons learned” in controlling and mitigating large and small spills throughout the maritime industry.

Companies known in the dredging industry as major suppliers of silt curtains, booms and water treatment chemicals are in the headlines as providing these products to contain and disperse oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Our coverage of the special booms Elastec/American Marine is providing, and the dispersants Nalco is shipping in bulk to the staging area comprise our Safety in Dredging section in this issue.

Other top news is that legislation has been introduced in both houses of Congress to ensure that money collected through the Harbor Maintenance Tax is used for harbor maintenance to the extent needed before the remaining funds can be released into the general treasury. If this happens, all coastal ports and ports on the Mississippi River will be assured of federal maintenance funding.

Our article on this topic in this issue (page 29) lists some of the provisions of the Senate bill, which mirrors the House of Representatives bill. Fortunately, this is a non-partisan issue – a concern shared across the spectrum of American life, agreed by all to be good for the country – so we can expect fast action on the bills.

Maritime interest groups such as the Dredging Contractors of America (DCA), Realize America’s Maritime Promise (RAMP), the National Waterways Conference and Great Lakes Maritime Task Force have done a good job defining the problem and spelling out remedies, so congressional committees were clear on what was needed, and were able to draft useful and effective legislation.

On the same topic – defining problems and needs – the November Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association meeting offered a wealth of information, with many examples from each speaker, on what is needed to re-establish that 1200-mile-long waterway as a reliable one for users. We learned that in its present form, the waterway is deadly. We also learned that money for dredging is useless without sufficient placement site capacity, and that the plough (pluff) mud in some areas is not easily dredged hydraulically and requires a look at other methods. Thanks to Adam Faircloth, cartographer at the Corps Wilmington District, who created our cover image and another image in the article beginning on page 6.

Attendees at the AIWA meeting got such a complete picture of the ongoing waterway because of the program Executive Director Rosemary Lynch put together. She has led the organization since its beginning 11 years ago, and her grasp of the issues has played a large part in bringing it, and the waterway, to the brink of full realization of its own maritime promise.

If you’re at the Western Dredging Association meeting in beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico, have a great show, and come see us at booth 33.

Judith Powers

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