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Eastern Chapter and COE Hold Joint Meetings in Atlanta

Casey Reeves describes the process involved in installing wind generators off the U.S. Atlantic coast.

Casey Reeves describes the process involved in installing wind generators off the U.S. Atlantic coast.

The Western Dredging Association (WEDA) Eastern Chapter meeting was held from October 14 to 16 in Atlanta, Georgia. The event included the day-long Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Division (SAD) regional dredging meeting at SAD headquarters, followed by the Eastern Chapter meeting the next day at the nearby conference hotel.

Ben Cottrell makes a comment during Dylan Davis’ “Ups and Downs” discussion.

Dylan Davis, SAD Navigation Program Manager and WEDA Eastern Chapter secretary, wrote the documents that demonstrated to Corps Headquarters that this was a mission critical event, paving the way for funding and permission for about 40 Corps employees to attend from all the districts in SAD – the Wilmington, Charleston, Jacksonville and Mobile Districts, as well as representatives from the North Atlantic, Southwest, Mississippi Valley and Mississippi River Divisions.

“Because of the Corps’ new travel and meeting requirements, we had to basically submit two meeting request packages to the Corps of Engineers - one for the USACE NAD/SAD Regional Dredging Meeting on Wednesday and one for WEDA Eastern Chapter Annual Meeting on Thursday. We had to show a splitting of management, costs, and human resources. Both requests were then approved as mission critical,” Michael Gerhardt, chapter president, said.

Dylan Davis and Jeff McKee in the meeting room at the Federal Building.

Approximately 110 people attended the Wednesday meeting at SAD, and 100 attended the WEDA portion on Thursday.

“Each day, approximately 40 Corps folks made up those totals,” Gerhardt said.

SOUTH ATLANTIC DIVISION (SAD) MEETING

Dredging contractors met with Corps representatives on Tuesday, October 14 for the annual Industry-Corps Hopper Dredge Meeting (ICHDMG), where the hopper dredge schedules for the new fiscal year were discussed, and contractors were able to give input regarding how the work was allocated between government and private dredges.

Weeks Marine employees Chuck Broussard, Mark Sickles, Chris Champigny and Keith Lindsay.

Dylan Davis opened the meeting on Wednesday, October 15, introducing Susan Whittington, SAD Chief of Operations, who welcomed the group, recalling that last year the furlough and government shutdown had required canceling of the Division’s dredging meeting. She praised Davis’s perseverance and creativity in splitting the meeting into two segments and two locations, and in getting approval from Corps policy and budget directors for employees from throughout the division to attend.

Dennis Lindemeier, Navigation Chief, gives the Savannah District navigation report.

Jeff McKee, chief of the Navigation Branch at Corps headquarters, described the scope of the navigation mission and gave some updates on activities since the passage of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA 2014). McKee explained that execution of the law is an Executive Branch responsibility, and that the Corps’ role is to give implementation guidance to the Administration, or to develop new policies and procedures needed to implement the law, with the intent of ensuring consistent application of the law throughout the Corps.

President Obama signed WRRDA 2014 (P.L. 39349) into law on June 10 of this year, and McKee’s office began immediately implementing the provisions that authorize 34 projects and feasibility studies valued at $12 billion. The Panama Canal is a game changer, allowing ships with a 160-foot beam to transit, he said. Ship size will continue to increase, which will have a cascading effect on U.S. ports, McKee said. The larger ships will call at the big ports, and smaller ships will call at intermediate and small ports.

As dredged material placement sites are filled up, Corps managers need to focus on maintaining and managing them, McKee said. “We are losing our open water sites, a policy being set by non-federal sponsors, which we need to push back on, he said. “We’ve done all the science, and are going to place in open water,” he said.

Bryce Wisemiller describes the status of the New York/New Jersey deepening.

McKee described the eHydro application and reporting process, which distributes data on controlling depths of channels directly to NOAA.

He concluded by saying that the industry needs to “speak with one voice to provide a sustainable marine transportation system, and to realize the importance of the navigation mission and the role we’re each taking to fulfill the mission. The transportation system must become a priority,” he said.

Navigation managers from the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Southwest, Mississippi Valley and Mississippi River presented district dredging schedules, followed by new harbor construction updates on the Miami deepening, the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP), the Charleston Post-45’ deepening project; the Jacksonville Harbor Deepening, The Delaware River Deepening and the New York New Jersey Harbor deepening. 

Rick Thorson moderated the afternoon session, which began with Dylan Davis’ talk listing Navigation Program Ups and Downs – “a frank discussion on what is right and wrong with the navigation program.”

Peggy Derrick, program manager of the Eastern Chapter, with Michael Gerhardt, chapter president.

A huge “Up” for the program is that WRRDA passed, he said. The Act identifies emerging ports, donor ports, Great Lakes ports and underserved ports as separate cases for distribution of funds. McKee added that the funds will be allocated at a national level, so the districts and divisions will not be setting aside funds.

Other Ups were more Sandy funding, emergency response funding, funding pots, contributed funds, permitting and resource agency relationships, new 408 guidance, continued partnering on shallow draft projects, a good safety record, pre-solicitation meetings, and response to a potential firewall breach issue in the DQM program.

Having lunch in the Federal Building cafeteria are Fred Paup, Mike Warwick, Henry Schorr and Dan Hussin of Manson Construction Company.

“Downs” Davis identified were continued late budgets and delays in funding pots, reprogramming restrictions and fiscal year tag on funding; environmental windows; no bids and high bids; scheduling (the Corps needs to look at the overall program and spread the work throughout the year); aging infrastructure, with dredging dollars going to lock maintenance; travel restrictions and meeting requirements; small business capability and lack of competition; MATOCs, options (sometimes 40 in one solicitation), long lead times on awards and modifications; and the Corps minimum fleet, specifically – the Dredges Wheeler, Murden and Essayons. 

The “Downs” instigated lively discussion as contractors and others spoke their minds. One person said that environmental windows are getting stricter and contractors are forced to dredge October to January, the worst time of the year in the Northeast. This is because regulatory agencies “won’t take our word” that dredging outside these windows can be safe for the environment.

From the Mobile District are Barry Dailey, engineering, George Rush, dredging project manager, and Carl Dyess, chief of Navigation.

Allocation of funds between coastal and inland projects did not seem fair to one attendee. McKee responded that “on balance, there is far more going to coastal navigation than to inland projects.” The aim is to keep the projects working, he said, which requires investing more on the inland side at times. If a lock breaks, all traffic stops until it is fixed, but in the case of shoaling, traffic can still pass.

Jennifer Gerhardt Smith of ERDC described a team approach to protecting threatened and endangered species. Most permits are applied for under Section 7(a)2 of the endangered species act, she said, which prevents activities likely to jeopardize the species. However, under Section 7(a)1, contractors are required to carry out programs for the conservation of the species, considering the net effect of actions rather than a case-by-case avoidance of one particular species or nesting site. Establishing a suite of principals and processes, such as a species conservation plan, that will be more effective, puts the Corps in the driver’s seat, and save hundreds of millions of dollars, she said.

Doug Piatowski spoke on the BOEM (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) sand mining perspective, followed by a report from industry representatives on how their investments are meeting capacity demands. Presenters were Chuck Broussard of Weeks Marine, Mike Warwick of Manson Construction Company, and Paul Lamourie of Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company.

Daniel Small, Administrative Deputy for the National Deep Draft Navigation Planning Center of Expertise wrapped up the program with a description of the Deep Draft program, which is headquartered at SAD.

WEDA EASTERN CHAPTER MEETING

Michael Gerhardt opened the WEDA Eastern Chapter meeting at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel by saying, “We’re back on track to where we were two years ago.” He thanked the corporate sponsors and Eastern chapter officers Vice Presidents Dan Hussin and Richard Thorsen, Secretary Dylan Davis, and Program Manager Peggy Derrick, who had spent the past nine months organizing the meeting.

Ram Mohan, president of WEDA said, “This sort of meeting is exactly what WEDA means to achieve, where industry and government can discuss technology, problems and advances in dredging. We want to focus on the Corps as a true partner, and we have some initiatives concerning that,” he said.

He reminded members that WEDA will host the World Dredging Conference, to be held in Miami in 2016. Fifteen hundred people from all over the globe are expected, he said.

He then announced that Tom Verna had been appointed executive director of WEDA. “Tom is the guy who helped us get focused on where the organization is going,” he said. (See article on pg. 38.)

Alvin Lee, SES Programs Director at SAD talked about the progress of implementing WRRDA. Under the President’s “We Can’t Wait” initiative, five projects are going ahead – four deep draft ports and the Everglades

Jeff McKee, Navigation Manager at Corps headquarters, and Jim Walker, Director of Navigation Policy and Legislation for the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) presented talks on WRRDA 2014 from both the Corps and Ports perspective. McKee reiterated what he said at the SAD meeting, including that the 3x3x3 rule (3 years, $3 million, 3 levels of vertical integration -- District, Division, and Headquarters) -- is now codified. However, a local

sponsor can contribute another $3 million, for a total of $6 million with a 50-50 sponsor.

The Olmsted Lock and Dam IWTF share decreases from 50 percent to 15 percent, with the remaining 85 percent of costs coming from General Treasury revenues. This frees up IWTF funds, but doesn’t increase the Corps budget. 

He also mentioned that funds have been allocated to increase the hours of operation at lowuse locks.

Jim Walker said that the AAPA was grateful that President Obama mentioned ports in the 2014 State of the Union address, and that the President, Vice President and members of the Department of Transportation made more than a dozen visits to ports prior to passage of WRRDA, adding that he hoped that enthusiasm gets reflected in the Corps budget in the future. He showed a slide of HMT expenditure targets for coming years: for FY 2015 – 67 percent of 2014 budget; for 2016, 69 percent of 2015 budget, with three percent increments until full HMT use in 2025. Still, stakeholders must keep the pressure on Congress to include the funds in the budget. The House hit the target this year, but the Senate is $100 million short, Walker said.

Keeping the channels open is a key to maintaining freight movement, and this begins and ends with dredging, he said. “We recognize your role in freight movement,” Walker said.

Hope Moorer, general manager for Navigation Programs at the Georgia Ports Authority, described the history and progress of the massive expansion program with the acronym SHEP.

The record of decision for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) was issued in October 2012, mediation with South Carolina and environmental interests was completed in May 2013, and final project permits were issued in July 2013. The state of Georgia will contribute $266 million to the project, and the project was included in WRRDA 2014. The partnership agreement was signed on October 8, with completion scheduled for 2019.

Christopher Guith, senior vice president for policy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, described the energy reserves and opportunities available in the United States. He focused on the natural gas reserves available through fracking (hydraulic fracturing), which has provided a windfall in natural gas and revenue for the states where the reserves are located, and in the accompanying manufacturing in related industries. In response to a question, Guith denied that fracking a well could possibly affect any aquifer. He said that there have been more than 400 fracking bans put into effect in the U.S., but that the industry planned to get rid of them.

Rogelio Gordon, dredging manager of the Panama Canal, and Celso Morales, director of Maritime Works and Dredging for the Government of Mexico followed. (See Ricardo Hernandez P. to Lead WEDA Mexico Chapter on pg. 16.)

Casey Reeves, project coordinator for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Department of the Interior, talked on the offshore wind farms planned in the Atlantic, which will involve federal/state cooperation in the state controlled waters. 

Robert Johnson described the Parallel Thimble Shoal Tunnel over Chesapeake Bay, and Christopher McArthur wound up the day with his talk on updates to the Southeast Regional Implemental Manual and how they will affect dredging and ocean placement. Johnson is Environmental Engineer and Ocean Disposal Program Coordinator, Coastal & Ocean Protection Section, U.S. EPA Region IV.

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