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As sand and silt washes downstream, sedimentation gradually fill channels and harbors. This material must be periodically removed by dredging. Photo NOAA-NOS

USA - Infrastructure Hearing Turns Into Dredged-Material Debate

Washington, D.C.—A House subcommittee hearing on innovation and investment in water resources infrastructure turned into a course on the importance of annual dredging at the nation’s ports and what to do with the mountains of material produced by that activity.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies, did not hold back in venting her frustration over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ explanation on why dredged material cannot be turned into a useful byproduct.

“I have worked for four decades to try to get the Corps to find alternate uses for the enormous amount of dredging material that is picked up from the ports across this country,” she said.

“It has been an utter failure.”

Kaptur made it clear she did not accept the Corps’ concern that dredged material might have safety issues.

Kevin DeGood, director of Infrastructure Policy at the Center for American Progress, suggested the Corps’ mindset may have to be changed.

DeGood said the agency would need to understand that helping ports turn dredged material into an economically useful product must be a formal part of their mission and not just a side frustration.

Thomas Winston, president and CEO of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, had explained the importance of annual dredging in his prepared statement to the panel.

“Without annual maintenance dredging, the Port of Toledo would silt in, and vessels would not be able to safely access Toledo’s marine terminals, having a devastating impact on the U.S. steel industry, agricultural exports, power generation and many other aspects of the regional national economy,” he stated.

In response to Kaptur’s question, Winston identified his port’s biggest challenges is to show how critical the consistent annual dredging by the Corps is for his port’s sustainability.

WRDA Guidance

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is accepting comments on implementation guidance for the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020 and scheduled five stakeholder sessions to collect additional input from the public.

Those stakeholder sessions will take place virtually from 1 to 3 p.m. EDT on the following dates:

• March 16—Navigation (Inland and Coastal) provisions

• March 23—Flood and Coastal Storm Risk Damage provisions• March 30—Ecosystem Restoration and Nuisance Species provisions• April 6—Water Supply and Hydropower provisions• April 13—Open comments for any provision

“We encourage stakeholders with specific interests to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mission area to participate in the session aligned with that mission area,” the agency stated, adding, however, comments on other areas will be heard at every session.

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