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WEDA Eastern Chapter Meeting Held in Providence, Rhode Island

By Marsha Cohen

On October 10, Michael Gerhardt, president of the WEDA Eastern Chapter and assistant executive director of Dredging Contractors of America (DCA), officially launched the WEDA Eastern Chapter Annual Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island. 
Some 100 participants attended, including a big turnout from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with a record-setting 48 Corps members present.
In his welcome remarks, Gerhardt took a moment, “with his DCA hat on,” as he said, to offer some statistics on the state of the U.S. dredging industry. “I would argue,” he stated, “that the industry, like the Corps, often times does not self-promote as much as it should.” He continued with citing some encouraging statistics. “From a sample of 90 FY17 projects, 59 – or 66 percent of them – had a winning bid less than the GE, the government estimate; 31, or 34 percent of them, had a winning bid greater than the GE. Of the 59 where industry was cheaper than the government, 39 were cheaper by more than 10 percent, 23 by more than 25 percent and 14 of the 59 projects were cheaper by more than 40 percent than the government estimate.
“The Net Total Savings for FY17, which does factor in projects where industry was higher, is $156M, or an average of 5 pecent savings per project. If you weigh the industry bid against the GE plus 25 percent, which is an even fairer comparison, a whopping $467M is the result, or an average of 24 perent savings per project.” 
Gerhardt then went on to name a few remarkable projects that fit this cost-savings profile: Thimble Shoal showed $3M in savings with industry 40 percent under the government estimate; Delaware River to Chesapeake Bay showed $6M in savings with industry 50 percent under the GE; Jacksonville Harbor showed $20M in savings with industry 47 percent under the GE; and the Beachfill at Manasquan Inlet to Barnegat Inlet at $82M with industry 40 percent under the GE.
Gerhardt then turned to the program at hand and introduced Scott Acone, deputy district engineer at the New England District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineer. Acone took the podium and laid the groundwork for the rest of the presentations in the fully-packed afternoon. A “USACE Navigation Update” by Steven Riley from the Institute for Water Resources (IWR)-Corps of Engineers offered a general view of the Corps’ national priorities and the current budget situation. 
This was followed by a report on the “Revitalization of the Working Port of Boston,” by Lisa Wieland, port director at the Massachusetts Port Authority and updates on the Boston Harbor’s dredging needs, as well as on the ports of New Haven and Portsmouth by Matt Tessier who is Boston Harbor, project manager at the Corps New England District.  
After a brief coffee break, Dave Simonelli, president of Dredging Division, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock, offered a presentation on the capabilities of the GLDD’s new Hopper Dredge Ellis Island. The Ellis Island will be the largest hopper dredge in the U.S. fleet. Chuck Broussard then followed with a description of the new investments at Weeks Marine. Both the advances at both companies indicates that the state of the U.S. dredging industry is good.

To cap off the day, the annual icebreaker reception, sponsored by Cashman Dredging, was held at The Hope Club, giving participants an opportunity to network and share firsthand stories. 
Day two started with breakfast and then to the important subject of safety. Devon Carlock, vice president of Safety & Government Relations at Cottrell Contracting Corporation, spoke on Cottrell Contracting’s “Big Shift to Modernize Safety Culture,” as well as giving an update on the work of the Council for Dredging and Marine Construction Safety (CDMCS). The council focuses on safety issues in the dredging and marine construction industry and has taken on several new initiatives to improve safety practices in the industry, such as a hand safety awareness video.
Two other very important topics followed: one was a presentation on the new “Block Island Wind Farm & the Future” by Aileen Kenney, vice president of permitting & environmental affairs for Deepwater Wind, the lead contractor for this off-shore wind energy development. This is the first ever American offshore wind farm located off an island on the U.S. East Coast between Rhode Island and New York State. Two other wind farms offshore between New York and Martha’s Vineyard are in the planning stages. 
The other topic was a discussion of the “State of the Jones Act” by Darrell Conner government affairs counselor at K&L Gates LLP. In light of events in Puerto Rico, this subject was very timely.
More East Coast regional updates continued with a report on the “Quonset Business Park – Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow” by Ted Spinard, development services director of Quonset Development, and on the “Impacts from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria” by Dylan Davis, coastal program manager for navigation and flood risk management – South Atlantic Division, Corps. The consequences of the increased strength of these storms is clearly worthy of assessment in order to prepare for the future.
After a luncheon during which contractors were afforded the opportunity to speak directly one-on-one with the Corps Districts about upcoming projects, the conference continued with Jim Walker’s views of “Infrastructure Investment: How Much Do You Need?” Walker is navigation policy and legislation director at the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA). This was followed by some perspectives on dealing with sediments including how the State of Maryland views dredged material as a resource, as described by Holly Miller of the Maryland Port Administration, Matthew Rowe of  Maryland Department of the Environment and Lauren Mentzer of the Maryland Environmental Service. In addition, “Regional Sediment Management Implementation – NAD and SAD Progress & Prognosis” was discussed by Clay McCoy, Corps Jacksonville District, Monica Chasten, Corps Philadelphia District, and Doug Stamper, Corps North Atlantic Division. This subject was continued by Ellen Iorio, project manager of the Crops New England District who presented information on “Environmental Remediation Dredging at the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site.”
The final subject of the second day looked at “Strategies for Overcoming Dredging Challenges in a Densely Developed Jersey Shore Community,” as seen by Karen Riley, who is senior project manager at Dewberry, a consultancy that advises on infrastructure, engineering and environmental issues. 
Picking up the thread the next day, Doug Piatkowski, physical scientist, Department of Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), offered information on “A Decision Support Tool Developed in Partnership with Stakeholders” to analyze sea turtle entrainment risks, known for short as ASTER.
To round out the meeting, a rundown on hopper dredge schedules was followed by a two-hour ICHDMG session led by Barry Holliday, Dredging Contractors of America, and Dylan Davis of Corps South Atlantic Division. Areas covered included environmental windows status, hurricane impacts and expected dredging requirements, the status of new hopper dredges and an update on pending decisions from the Corps hopper dredge project delivery team.
To sum up the Eastern Chapter’s successful few days in Providence, in Gerhardt’s words, “From the revitalization of the Port of Boston to the first U.S. wind farm, from regional sediment management to environmental remediation, from national infrastructure development to corporate safety culture, and from the effects of this year’s hurricanes to the state of the Jones Act and domestic fleet expansion, this meeting covered it all.” 

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