The 2018 Dredging Summit and Expo put on by the Western Dredging Association drew more than 450 dredging professionals to the Hilton Hotel in Norfolk, Virginia, from June 25 to 28.
The event took place with a background of industry health in the U.S. that included investment in capital equipment by dredging contractors. New work dredging projects have also seen an uptick in response to the increase in container vessel size demanded by the recently completed expansion in the Panama Canal locks and shipping channel.
Two keynote speakers at the opening plenary session on Tuesday, June 26 informed attendees of the realities surrounding the health of the industry.
Eric Bush, chief, Planning & Policy at the South Atlantic Division (SAD) headquarters in Atlanta, and director of the Deep Draft Navigation Planning Center of Expertise headquartered in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District, brought greetings from Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, chief of engineers, Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon, deputy chief of engineers for Civil Works and Emergency Operations, and Brig. Gen. Diana Holland, commander, South Atlantic Division.
Bush began his talk by addressing the “elephant in the room” – the proposal by the Trump Administration, announced on June 21, to move the Corps Civil Works mission to the Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Department of the Interior, including its regulatory mission. The Chief of Engineers has stated his readiness to identify legislative, policy, and regulation reforms to the Congress and the Administration, and to improve Corps organization to more efficiently and effectively accomplish all our missions, Bush said.
The change would require Congressional approval, as well as changes in dozens of existing laws governing the Corps, USDOT and Department of Interior functions.
There is an unprecedented new work load in Civil Works, Bush continued. Under the 2018 Emergency Supplemental Funding Bill, the Corps is assigned $15 billion for construction, which includes $10 billion to hurricane-impacted states, $135 million for studies, with $75 million of that for hurricane-impacted states; $770 million for the Mississippi River and tributaries, $608 million for operations and maintenance, and $810 million for its Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies, emergency restoration program that enables the Corps to restore the projects damaged by hurricanes, floods and other emergencies.
The FY18 appropriation includes $6.8 billion – $4.6 billion to specific projects and programs, and $1.7 billion for navigation and flood risk.
The Corps is also conforming with an executive order signed in August 2017 that will streamline the environmental review and permitting process on infrastructure projects, Bush said. The executive order, entitled “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects,” is implemented by an memorandum of understanding (MOU) among involved government agencies.
The Corps’ plan re-frames the Civil Works planning process with an emphasis on risk analysis. The executive order outlines a two-year goal of implementing the guidance. The Corps has several “centers for efficiency” around the country, one of which is the Deep Draft Navigation Center of Expertise, which is responsible for economic analysis and reviews, said Bush, who is director of that center. It has done 14 feasibility studies for deep draft navigation projects since 2011, and is examining risk-informed planning, which includes the 3x3x3 plan already in place, to streamline project study. “The projects have to deliver the benefits taxpayers are investing in,” he said. Other challenges are in cost growth, environmental compliance and regional sediment management, which promotes regional beneficial use of dredged material.
Regarding safety, Bush said, “There is an uptick in injuries on our projects, which will spur hazard analysis when planning projects.”
The Corps’ Institute for Water Resources has been developing strategies for inland waterway and port modernization since 2012 in response to the expansion of the Panama Canal and the larger vessels that must be accommodated as a result. An update of the study is under way and will be ready for download at the end of September, he said.
DCA CEO William Doyle
William P. Doyle, who took over as CEO and executive director of the Dredging Contractors of America (DCA) the first week of January, gave members a positive report on the state of the dredging industry.
“There is a lot of activity on Capitol Hill and from the White House that directly impacts dredging. This includes funding for channel deepening and widening, coastal restoration and beach re-nourishment,” he said.
The House version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 (WRDA 2018) was passed on June 7, and the Senate version – S 2800 – is on the Senate legislative calendar, scheduled to come up for a vote after the July 4 recess, he said.
Other activity includes the FY18 USACE Work Plan, or Omnibus Spending bill, which was released in June, and the House Energy & Water Appropriations Bill.
“Yesterday, the U.S. Senate approved a $145 billion spending bill to fund the Energy Department and veterans’ programs for the next budget year. The bill includes $43.8 billion for energy and water programs, including funds for flood-control projects, and addresses regional ports and waterways.
We are all waiting for the 2017 Disaster Supplemental Work Plan to be released by the Army Corps of Engineers – it should be coming soon,” he said. This bill was signed into law by President Donald Trump on February 8, 2018.
Member companies recently met with Corps representatives at the National Dredging Meeting and Hopper Dredge working group.
“We (the COE and DCA) are on track and working closely together. We have a good private sector working relationship with the Army Corps of Engineers,” he said.
“The dredging industry is seeing more capital improvement than it has in the past 30 years, Doyle said, citing the $1 billion-plus capital construction program. New investments include four large cutter suction dredges, two large hopper dredges and approximately 50 barges built in shipyards across the U.S. including Eastern Shipbuilding, C&C Marine Shipyard, Corn Island Shipyard, Conrad Shipyard and Halimar Shipyard, he said.
Mentioning the 500,000 jobs supported by the U.S. maritime industry, Doyle said, “I am a big supporter of a strong and vibrant U.S. Merchant Marine, of which the U.S.-flag dredging industry plays a vital role. I believe in my companies and their business models of building ships and vessels in U.S. shipyards, registering their vessels in the United States and staffing them with American officers and crew.”
PORT OF NORFOLK 55-FOOT CHANNELS
Guest speaker John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority in Norfolk addressed the group at the luncheon on Tuesday, June 26. He described the ongoing business development and growth at the six marine terminal facilities that comprise the Port of Virginia.
Reinhart described the economic drivers of Virginia as federal spending, tourism and the Port of Virginia, which has the third largest container facility in the country. The port is supported by intermodal transportation infrastructure and kept healthy by funding support from the Virginia legislature.
The port’s 55-foot channel deepening project will be accomplished over the next six years and includes wider channels to allow two-way traffic by post-Panamax vessels.
“Two years from now dredges will be in the water,” he said.
BEST PAPER AWARDS
The technical program included 65 papers presented in two concurring sessions, in addition to panel discussions in three plenary sessions. Three best paper awards were presented.
Joe Wagner received the DSC-sponsored “Why is Dredging Good?” award for “Save our Indian River Lagoon Project Funded Muck Removal, Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department, Brevard County, Florida.” He and co-author L. Lumbard are with Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions, and co-author M. Culver is with Brevard County Natural Resources. Award sponsor DSC is a dredge manufacturer headquartered in Reserve, Louisiana.
The Dredging Contractors of America (DCA)-sponsored best paper award was presented to Andrew McQueen for his paper “Evaluating Biological Effects of Dredging-Induced Underwater Sounds.” He and co-authors B. Suedel, J. Wilkens and M. Fields are with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC).
Margaret Davis of the Hile Group received the WEDA/Anchor QEA Best Paper by a Young Author award for “Navigating the Future of Dredging Safety, One Project Launch Meeting at a Time.”
WEDA’s mission continues to include facilitating its members in safety and environmental concerns along with their dredging goals. At the opening plenary session Devon Carlock urged members to take the safety culture they practice at work into their daily lives. Discussing “safety situational awareness in our changing environment,” he recapped deaths and injuries because of texting while driving (1.6 million crashes each year) and walking (6,000 fatalities each year) in the U.S.
The safety panel at the opening plenary session on Wednesday, June 27 comprised winners of the 2018 safety excellence award-winning companies. Andy Carter, manager of the CEDA Group’s operations at Fort McMurray, Alberta, Paul Jung, director of Health and Safety for Sevenson Environmental Group, and John Henrickson of Manson Construction Company addressed questions posed by WEDA Safety Chair Julie Hile regarding their safety programs, including strategies and methods they found useful in establishing a working safety culture in their operations and in third-party companies and individuals involved in their projects.
Craig Vogt moderated the environmental plenary session on Thursday, June 28, which included presentations by Amine Dahmani of SESI Consulting Engineers on a beach stabilization and dune restoration in Yucatan, Mexico; Andrew Timmis of J.F. Brennan describing the company’s Ninigret Marsh Restoration; Jim Mundth of Caterpillar Engine Division on the company’s progress in producing low carbon emission engines including the Advanced Variable Drive ™ design; and Luis Maristany of Mott MacDonald on the La Quinta aquatic habitat mitigation for the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas.
DREDGER OF THE YEAR
Dave Simonelli of Great Lakes Dredge & Dock was named the 2018 Dredger of the Year at the final dinner. He has been president of the Dredging Division at Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Corporation since 2010 and is responsible for the Dredging Operations Group, which includes Estimating, Engineering, Operations, Plant and Equipment and Foreign Operations. He was cited for his commitment to safe operations as a right and responsibility owed to everyone, and his relentless advocacy of dredging innovation and confidence in our ability to reach next-level performance.
“His active engagement has eased the suffering of those affected by shoreline disasters and has positively impacted the personal lives and professional paths of more members of the WEDA community than can be named,” his award stated.
William Gahagan was given the 2018 WEDA Lifetime Achievement Award. Starting in the late 1960s, Gahagan worked at Gahagan Dredging, which was founded by his grandfather and was responsible for the dredging of the Apollo Launch Site in Florida, and Newark (NJ), Kennedy (NY), and Logan (Boston) Airports. Gahagan Dredging was known for its innovations in developing equipment and dredging techniques for difficult projects. In 1974, he and J. Frank Bryant formed Bryant Associates Inc. (GBA) with a shared belief that to properly design a dredging program, the designing engineers must have “hands-on” field experience in performance of dredging contract work.
The program included the first “Dredging 101,” a project of the environmental commission introduced at the 2017 meeting under the leadership of Craig Vogt. A team consisting of Vogt, Don Hayes, Andrew Timmis and Rebecca Gardner designed the course over the past year, and it was taught by Don Hayes on June 25, prior to the start of the 2018 Summit. Following the course, organizers and attendees joined the ongoing Environmental Commission meeting to discuss its effectiveness. Members decided to continue to present the course, expanding the subject beyond environmental considerations, and to examine the idea of making such courses available beyond the annual meeting and at other conferences, such as the Battelle Contaminated Sediment Conference.
A short course on Bathymetric Multibeam Mapping for Dredging Projects was held concurrently with Dredging 101.
Three new board members were approved by the WEDA membership at the annual meeting. They are Dr. Todd Bridges from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Janet Kirkton of Caterpillar, and Dana Trierweiler from Infrastructure Alternatives (IAI Water).
The event wrapped up with a luncheon cruise on the Elizabeth River.
The conference organizing committee included Tom Cappellino, WEDA executive director; Robert Ramsdell, chair; Donald Hayes, editor; Paul Fuglevand, P.E., Walter Dinicola, and Shelly Anghera.
The 2019 Dredging Summit & Expo will be held on June 4 through 7 in Chicago, Illinois.
Proceedings of the 2018 Dredging Summit and Expo are posted on the group’s website www.westerndredging.org