MDE Releases Draft Guidance for Beneficial Use Projects in Maryland
In March, the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) with the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Port Administration released the draft guidance document for Innovative Reuse and Beneficial Use of Dredged Material.
In 2001, the Maryland General Assembly enacted the Dredged Material Management Act of 2001 (DMMA), which established the Dredged Material Management Program (DMMP). MDE prepared the draft document, in response to the DMMP executive committee’s recommendations, issued in the Innovative and Beneficial Use Interagency Regulatory Workgroup Final Report, published June 2016. The working group included members of MDE, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 3 (EPA), the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Maryland Geological Survey (MGS), the Maryland Environmental Service (MES), and the Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration (SHA) and Port Administration (MPA).
PERMITTING AND REGULATORY AUTHORITY: JOINT STATE AND FEDERAL PROCESS
The new guidance document is intended to assist prospective end users in identifying and applying the requirements for the various laws and regulations that govern reuse and the beneficial use of dredged material. The objectives will provide clear instruction for the permit and approval processes, guidance for the sampling and testing of dredged material, and a framework for long-term management.
MDE regulates proposed dredging activities and the management of dredged material at the state level, and the Corps issues federal permits and permission. In October 2016, the Corps Baltimore District issued MDSPGP-5, a programmatic general permit, developed in cooperation with MDE, that has regulatory authority over activities in Maryland waters. The MDSPGP-5 authorizes certain categories of maintenance dredging and minor dredging within tidal waters. It does not generally authorize open water placement of the material, but does authorize limited placement of dredged materials for beach nourishment and marsh creation.
To implement MDSPGP-5 and to streamline the state and federal permitting process within Maryland, MDE and the Corps have developed a joint permitting process, where the majority of applicants proposing activities that impact state and federally regulated wetlands and waters to submit a single application to MDE, which is then able to review applications and, in many cases, issue both state and federal approvals.
The joint permit application process includes interagency coordination and review from any other applicable state and federal agencies, such as DNR, Maryland Historic Trust (MHT), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), United States Coast Guard (USCG).
DREDGED MATERIAL SOURCES AND BENEFICIAL USES
The MDA guidance document outlines many of the different types of projects, sources of dredged material and beneficial uses.
The largest source of material in Maryland comes from annual dredging in the federal navigation channels to maintain authorized depths and navigation to the Chesapeake Bay and into the Port of Baltimore. On average, 5 million cubic yards of material is dredged annually from the navigation channels in the Chesapeake Bay, and 1.5 million cubic yards is dredged from within Baltimore Harbor.
Material dredged from the Baltimore Harbor channels is placed in one of two MPA-owned Dredged Material Containment Facilities (DMCFs): Cox Creek DMCF and Masonville DMCF, but recent tests of the material have shown the potential for beneficial use. Baltimore Harbor dredged material from outside of the regularly maintained navigation channels may require other special characterization and monitoring requirements due to a possibility of legacy industrial contamination.
Maintenance material from the Chesapeake Bay channels is beneficially used for island habitat restoration at Poplar Island Ecosystem Restoration Project.
Acceptable beneficial uses that have an existing approval process in place include aquatic habitat creation or restoration, landfill cover, and structural and non-structural fill or soil (brownfield reclamation, use as a soil amendment, manufactured topsoil). Authorized beneficial uses of dredged material include: restoration of underwater grasses; restoration of islands; stabilization of eroding shorelines; replenishment of beach areas; creation or restoration of wetlands; and creation, restoration, or enhancement of fish or shellfish habitats.
Other acceptable uses may include building materials/aggregate, mine and quarry reclamation, or other upland uses. MDE is in the development stages of guidance for these end uses, and it said approval will be case by case.
Although not currently reused, the sediment from Baltimore Harbor may be used beneficially, MDE said, in accordance with the recommendations in its guidance document.
The document also outlines other innovative reuse opportunities for dredged sediment, including landfill closure caps; soil and fill materials in the reclamation of brownfields, engineered fill for roadway bed material, manufactured soil or soil amendment/conditioner; parking lot foundations, or embankments.
“Finding innovative ways to manage sediment removed from the shipping channels serving the Port of Baltimore is a priority for the MPA. With the development of MDE’s Draft Guidance Document and Technical Screening Criteria, there is now a clear path forward for making innovative reuse a reality, not just for the MPA, but for the private sector and related industries throughout Maryland,” said MPA Director of Harbor Development Chris Correale. “The MPA is grateful for MDE’s leadership on this effort – we share the same goal that dredged material, as a valuable natural resource, can safely be reused while driving innovation, benefiting the environment and growing Maryland’s economy.”
A public meeting to present the draft guidance and answer questions was held April 25. Public comments on the document were accepted through May 26. MDE will consider those before releasing the final guidance.