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Darcy Outlines Administration's Dredging Policy in Dredging 2012 Keynote Speech

Darcy Outlines Administration’s Dredging Policy in Dredging 2012 Keynote Speech

Secretary Darcy’s keynote address at Dredging 2012 describes the Obama Administration’s initiatives and policies regarding dredging and waterborne transportation, which will continue in the President’s second term.

During Dredging 2012 in San Diego on October 23, Assistant Secretary of the Army (CW), the Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy, spoke at the Opening Plenary Session about the mission of the Army Secretariat Civil Works under the Obama Administration, the current initiatives for navigation, and how to move the nation’s waterways into the future.

“Our challenge is to carry out these missions, balancing the engineering, the economy, and the environment,” Secretary Darcy said.

While the millions of cubic yards of material dredged annually maintain the waterways for commercial and recreational purposes, and even national defense, many dredged material containment facilities are at capacity – a problem to which beneficial use has been the answer. Secretary Darcy outlined the seven categories used to classify beneficial use: habitat development; shore protection; parks and recreation; reclamation and remediation; construction and industrial; agriculture; forestry; horticulture; and aquaculture; and emergency response actions.

Secretary Darcy also said the Corps has various legislative authorities to share the incremental costs of the beneficial use option.

“The most commonly used authority for beneficial use of dredged material is Section 204 of WRDA 1992, which allows for protecting, restoring, or creating aquatic and ecologically related habitat,” she said, citing the Jetty Island beach nourishment project in Puget Sound, as paving the way for other beneficial use and mitigation projects.
The success of cooperative funding efforts was also a focus, where Secretary Darcy referred to a protective sand berm project between the Port of Everett and the Corps, as a successful example. Operational and maintenance Corps funds paid all dredging and disposal costs, and the Port of Everett obtained the necessary permits and funded the biological studies for the project.

Citing the importance of navigation in increasing exports, creating jobs, and reducing fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, Secretary Darcy offered some statistics from 2011:

Ships move more than 95 percent of oversees trade into the U.S.

The commerce created by the U.S. marine transportation industry tops nearly $2 trillion annually and creates employment for more than 13 million people.

Barges can move one ton of cargo 576 miles per gallon of fuel. Rail cars and trucks are less energy efficient, moving the same cargo only 413 and 155 miles per gallon, respectively.

“Barge is better! “ Secretary Darcy said.

She also spoke about the federal initiatives aimed at ensuring a healthy navigation industry in the future. Secretary Darcy is a member of a White House-led Navigation Task Force, which will develop a federal strategy for future navigation investments, established under President Obama’s 2013 budget.

“The purpose of the Task Force is to inform the President on the challenges and needs of the U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS) and to help develop a federal strategy for sound investments, to include critical issues, such as aging infrastructure and the harbor maintenance that U.S. ports are now facing. The work of the Task Force has recently gotten underway, and the focus has been on the development of principles to guide federal investments in navigation, including land side improvements, as well as intermodal facilities. We are hoping to inform the FY14 budget development through the work of the Task Force,” Secretary Darcy said.

In March of 2012, President Obama also issued an Executive Order to improve the performance of federal permitting and the decision-making process on infrastructure projects.
Secretary Darcy said a committee of federal agencies with major infrastructure projects is institutionalizing best practices to reduce permitting and review decision time.

“These projects highlight important innovations undertaken during this Administration by the Corps in conjunction with our local sponsors, such as alternative financing, planning modernization, and collaboration with other federal agency work. Many of these improvements will help prepare the navigation system for the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014,” Secretary Darcy said.

A federal plan published in June of 2012 describes how the Administration plans to improve efficiency and outcomes for communities and the environment.

The Army is also working with the Department of Transportation (DOT) on the effectiveness of federal investments in multimodal infrastructure projects, through a program called the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER Discretionary Grant program. A memorandum of understanding signed this past spring between the two means the Corps now comments on DOT’s proposed TIGER grants to streamline the process. Other agencies, including NOAA, have begun contributing to these discussions as well.

“We are prioritizing investments that will yield high economic and environmental returns or address a significant risk to public safety and developing innovative and creative ways to leverage our resources and expertise while continuing to deliver value to our Nation,” Secretary Darcy said.

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