November-December 2012 Editorial
Hurricane Sandy hit the U.S. Northeast Coast just as we were finalizing this issue, so I dropped everything to find out how dredging companies had fared during the disaster. It turns out that most were able to shut down in safe harbor during the worst of it on October 29, only to shut down again on November 8 when a nor’easter came through. Marcol’s dredge Capt. Leo was swamped by a storm surge and its tanks had to be flushed out before it could return to work a week later, but that was the most notable adverse effect on our industry.
Contractors are now preparing to step up to repair damage done to beaches as far south as South Carolina, where extremely high tides exacerbated damage done by Hurricane Irene in August 2011. NOAA posted some interesting before and after photos of New York and New Jersey beaches, which point up the damage that occurs when beaches lack dunes or other storm defense structures. Coastal defense is an important element of our infrastructure, and Sandy was a graphic, if unfortunate, tool for bringing this to Washington’s attention.
A recent news release from the Associated General Contractors blamed “Washington” for failing to take care of the nation’s vital infrastructure. I called the AGC to see who “Washington” is, and Brian Turmail said that it is both houses of Congress as well as the administration.
“This should not be a partisan issue, he said on October 19. “It’s the responsibility for all members of congress and the president to meet with each other and make sure our water systems are clean and safe, and that other elements such as navigation channels and roads are maintained, and to give ground when necessary during the discussions.
“Instead, we’re going into the end of the year with no certainty on taxes, we are facing a fiscal cliff, absence of a WRDA (water resources development act) and other infrastructure legislation. Senator (Barbara) Boxer is the only one talking about WRDA,” he said.
I was riding my horse in a cattle-working clinic recently, and my horse was acting up and scaring me. I asked the instructor what I should do, and he said to focus far ahead to where I am going and not on what my horse is doing or what the other horses were doing. Like magic, my fear left, my horse settled down, and I was getting smoothly from one end of the arena to the other. That reminded me of Washington - the House, the Senate and the Administration. They need to stop focusing on themselves, on other politicians around them, on how their actions will play out in their career, and start focusing on where they are going. They need to meet with each other, give ground when necessary, and run this country.
The National Research Council has issued a rebuke to the nation, calling the Corps of Engineers’ mission “unsustainable” as a result of insufficient funding. The report, described on page 27 of this issue, includes some fascinating historical detail about how the Corps’ mission has changed in the past 200 years, but also highlights the stark fact of lack of support for the Corps’ mission in Washington. The report gives a list of solutions, and we’ll pay close attention to these recommendations and the extent to which they are addressed in the closing months of this legislative session and the opening months of the next one.
With this issue we are including a regular North American Dredging Roundup, assembled by our writer David Murray. This will complement the Latin American Roundup by Katie Worth, and give an overview of dredging activities throughout the region as reported by local publications. Also for the first time, we’re using QR (quick response) codes – those mottled squares that when scanned by a Smart Phone call up a short film clip. The two on page 35 of this issue show some of the reeds and root masses being cut up by the new IMS Razor Tooth Cutterhead in Ecuador. This will add a dimension to our reporting, and I’ll welcome your comments about it.