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Dredging 2015 in Savannah Addressed “Moving and Managing Sediments”

Jo-Ellen Darcy, left, presents Pat Engler with a
plaque naming the PIANC USA’s newly-initiated
Student Travel Scholarship after Dr. Robert
Engler.

Jo-Ellen Darcy, left, presents Pat Engler with a plaque naming the PIANC USA’s newly-initiated Student Travel Scholarship after Dr. Robert Engler.

The Dredging 2015 conference, with the theme “Moving and Managing Sediments,” attracted environmental representatives of dredging companies, Corps of Engineers employees, and scientists and engineers who deal with sediment management and remediation, among other interested parties.

It was held in Savannah, Georgia, from October 19 to 22 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, fronting the Savannah River, which was also the entrance channel to the Port of Savannah. In the exhibit hall, the technical presentation rooms and their own rooms, attendees could see all ship traffic – container ships, break bulk ships and tankers – on their way in and out of the port.

The conference was the annual meeting for PIANC USA (the U.S. section of the International Navigation Association), and Coasts, Oceans, Ports and Rivers Institute (COPRI), a semi-autonomous institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Other sponsors were the Academy of Coastal, Ocean, Port and Navigation Engineers of ASCE, The Georgia Ports Authority, Weeks Marine, and other stakeholders.

Conference chairman Steve Garbaciak began the opening plenary session by thanking Kelly Barnes, who had, in his words, “single handedly organized the conference over many months.”

MG Donald Jackson, left, and keynote speaker John Tavolaro at the opening session.

PIANC’s dredging conferences started in 1984, Garbaciak said, and continued in a 10-year rotation, until 2012, when Dr. Robert Engler, chairman of that conference, urged that the conferences change to a three-year rotation, and plans immediately began for the 2015 conference.

The opening session was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Engler, who died earlier this year. His wife Pat, daughter Billie, and other family members were present to hear the Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works and chairperson of PIANC USA, present a moving eulogy of Dr. Engler.

“Bob’s commitment to water resources was well known, and his leadership and professionalism were second to none,” she said. “He was just a wonderfully charismatic and fine man. His 74th birthday is on Sunday (October 25). He was taken away from all of us way too soon,” she said.

Luis Prieto, left, of Piedroba Consulting Group, and Lyle Maciejewski, who talked on island creation using material from the Savannah River deepening project.

MG Donald Jackson, deputy commanding general of Civil and Engineering Operations at Corps of Engineers Headquarters, and president of PIANC USA, began his remarks by greeting Bob Engler’s family.

“What an honor it is to have you all here with us,” he said.

The U.S. Section of PIANC has established a student travel scholarship, and has named it after Dr. Engler, he said.

Jackson talked about the waterways and the Corps’ mission to maintain them in a “safe, reliable, efficient, effective and environmentally sustainable manner.”

Addressing an ongoing solution to the question of how to manage sediment, he said, “regional sediment management is a success story, but one that has a way to go.” Collaboration and cooperation will be necessary to make it work.

“Projects we rely on won’t be funded in the same way in the future, and the Corps is seeking ways to fund projects in non-traditional ways. The coastlines are resilient, and beneficial uses of dredging material will save money and reap environmental benefits we don’t realize yet,” he said, adding that the concept of “engineering with nature” is in the forefront of planning solutions.

Steven Timmons, left, manager of environmental dredging and remediation; and Chuck Broussard, chief estimator, in the Weeks Marine booth. Weeks sponsored the refreshments and lunches served in the exhibit hall.

In closing, Jackson mentioned the PIANC Young Professionals program, which aids and mentors engineers and scientists under the age of 35. These people “are the future of our industry,” he said, asking all the Young Professionals in the audience to stand.

Keynote speaker John Tavolaro retired from the USACE as deputy chief of operations of the New York District. Talking on “Dredging: Past Accomplishments and Future Challenges,” he recalled that in 1978, there was no testing of sediments, and that all material dredged from the New York and New Jersey area was placed in the ocean. The material included sewage sludge, chemical waste and other contaminants, and there was a growing public objection to placing it in the ocean.

In 1988, Congress passed the Ocean Dumping Act, which led to the closing of the ocean “mud dump” site and to further changes to ensure safe handling of all categories of material, from clean material that was safe to place in the ocean to highly contaminated material that required treatment and/or placement in an upland site.

The New York District developed one of the first dredged material management plans in the U.S., which categorized material according to levels of contamination, and managed the material appropriately for each category, Tavolaro said.

Following the opening session, the program split into four tracks of technical presentations, with 110 papers on the science, engineering and management of dredged material.

Breaks and meals were held in the exhibit hall, sponsored by contributing companies, with access to a range of companies that deal with dredged material and sediments.

The final plenary session on Thursday, October 22, comprised a luncheon sponsored by the  Port of Savannah and a panel discussion on the concept of public-private partnership in funding infrastructure projects.

Assistant organizer Ann Cann presented Steve Garbaciak with a plaque in thanks for his work on the conference. Garbaciak in turn congratulated Kelly Barnes on the successful conference.

Following a gourmet-quality meal, the panel discussion on “Public-Private Partnerships (P3) for the Nation’s Inland Marine Transportation System - Focus on Dredging” got under way.

P3 is a plan to bring private investment money into public infrastructure projects. As panelist Richard Ornitz said, “There is no limitation in the private sector of finding ways to make money.” The private sector is willing to invest in projects that will ensure that the waterways, locks, port facilities and other projects they need for their businesses are maintained and available when needed, giving the example of Exxon’s investment of $250 million in the Texas Port of Freeport.

Session moderator Dennis Lambert, of COWI North America, Inc., is a member of COPRI. He had begun a discussion about P3 within the society, which resulted in the establishment of a new subcommittee to address P3s, with Lambert as chairperson.

Whitford Remer of ASCE told the group that the organization’s last national infrastructure report card in 2013 gave inland waterways a D-, ports a C and bridges a C+. The report cards are issued to raise public awareness of the country’s infrastructure needs.

These are the effects of the failure to invest in the infrastructure, he said. ASCE advocates P3s at the state and federal level, but that doesn’t take away from the pressure we put on Congress (to allocate funding to these projects), he said.

Edward Belk presented the public’s point of view from the aspect of the Corps of Engineers. He is chief of Operations and the Regulatory Division at Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

By 2030, the country will need $60 trillion in infrastructure investment to sustain the current level of performance, he said. There are 3,000 operational projects in the country’s infrastructure, with a $268 billion replacement value. The Corps of Engineers has $60 billion in projects that are authorized but not funded, and a $4.6 billion annual budget to service its projects.

The Corps’ navigation mission is the largest in the world, he said, with 12,000 miles of river navigation and other projects on the Great Lakes and coastlines.

“We are a maritime nation, and we have to make investments to make sure we are successful economically,” he said.

“We have the resources to do whatever we choose to do as a nation, so how do we fill the gaps in investment in infrastructure that remain?” he asked. “We need some creative ‘game changers’ – new ways to address infrastructure funding.

“When the Corps chooses to NOT maintain projects, the locals come up with proposals to maintain the projects themselves. With P3 and P4 (the next step beyond P3), we are looking at alternative funding ideas. With P3, a project can be fully funded up front. It takes a lot of the risk off the table, and will pay for itself in the long run,” he said.

P3 is only one tool in the toolbox, he said. It is not just about money – it’s about transferring risk that will accelerate project delivery and accrue benefits that will achieve a lower life cycle cost.

Richard Ornitz, chairman of the infrastructure investment group Infralynx Capital, described the investment possibilities of the group. Private investors are not bound by the same constraints as the government, and can subsidize specific projects that industry depends on and which will benefit their business. Using the example of the Industrial Canal lock that connects the Mississippi River to the Canal in New Orleans, he said that because everything on the Intracoastal Waterway goes through the lock, a private partner would have a vital interest in ensuring that the lock is updated and continues to operate, affording security for the oil and gas industry that transportation of their product will be unobstructed.

The Corps of Engineers has the best engineers around, he said, so its projects have the stability that private investors can depend on. For P3 and P4 to move forward, leadership and vision are needed. There is an overwhelming desire in this country to get the jobs done, he concluded.

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