Summit on the Beneficial Use of Dredged Materials

The Summit on the Beneficial Use of Dredged Materials was held on March 14-15, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky–in conjunction with the 2013 MAFC/ITTS/KYTC Joint Annual Freight Meeting.

About the Summit

This summit explored the use of dredged materials in state transportation projects and in other beneficial ways, as both a sustainable dredging strategy, and an opportunity to utilize a readily available commodity.

Conference Themes

  • Economic impact of the disposal problem
  • State of the art of the beneficial use
  • Beneficial use in practice
  • Opportunities for departments of transportation
  • Federal and state policy and regulatory perspectives
  • Tools for finding available dredged materials
  • The future of beneficial use of dredged materials

Who Should Attend?

The summit was open to all interested attendees, but focused on issues important to state department of transportation engineers, including chief engineers, materials engineers, and geotechnical engineers.

Conference Materials

Reference Materials

Summary Report

Over three hundred million cubic yards of sediment need to be dredged from U.S. commercial harbors and connecting waterways annually to allow unimpeded marine freight transportation. As simple disposal is no longer a practical approach to dealing with uncontaminated dredged material in many locations, beneficial reuse has emerged the best pathway to an affordable, sustainable management strategy. This summit conference, supported by the National Center for Freight & Infrastructure Research & Education (CFIRE), was designed to further define and promote the practice of beneficial use of dredged material, particularly by state departments of transportation (DOTs).

Specific goals were to 1) provide updated information on current research and development relating to beneficial use of dredged material; 2) discuss relevant state and federal policy; 3) present examples of successful beneficial use involving DOT involvement in a variety of regional settings; and 4) explore strategies for expanding DOT consideration of dredged material for beneficial use.

Day One

The criticality of dredging to commercial navigation

Marie Strum, assistant chief, engineering and technical Services, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Detroit District, presented Great Lakes Dredged Material Management, an overview of the USACE dredging program in the Great Lakes. Of the 140 federally maintained harbors in the system (60 commercial, 80 recreational) 82 are currently in need of maintenance dredging, including at least four major commercial ports and scores of recreational harbors in critical condition. Adding to the urgency are water levels at historic lows due to drought and evaporation from increased water and air temperatures. Economic analysis of USACE dredging in the Great Lakes has documented a $335 million return from an investment of $41 million, for a benefit/cost ratio of 8:1. Confined disposal facilities (CDFs) in the Great Lakes – 80 percent of which are full – cannot be relied upon much longer due to USACE budget constraints, and local inability to provide cost share. Additionally, GL dredged material is increasingly cleaner as pollution sources are remediated, thus lessening the need for confined disposal and creating more opportunity for beneficial use.

James Weakley, president of the Lake Carriers’ Association, provided the presentation Great Lakes Maritime Task Force – Promoting Shipping On America’s Fourth Sea Coast Since 1992 which was presented by Gene Clark (University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute). The presentation demonstrated the “perfect storm” facing cargo carriers in the Great Lakes, including decreased USACE operation and maintenance budgets, disallowance of congressional adds (earmarks) and the worsening low water conditions. He noted the loss of carrying capacity, and thus operating efficiency, resulting from each inch of lost draft. Also noted was the continued importance of Great Lakes marine trade to the North American economy, the fact that 50 percent of U.S. steel manufacturing is in the Great Lakes region and relies on Great Lakes maritime transportation, and that the marine mode is still greatly superior to rail and truck in the areas of fuel efficiency and toxic emissions.

Dennis Wilmsmeyer, executive director of America’s Central Port near St. Louis presented America’s Central Port which provided the perspective from the inland river system, noting that his facility has operated for 55 years and is currently building an additional brand new harbor facility using much of the material from the construction site to build new levies and provide coverage for an ash placement site.

Current research on the science and technology of beneficial use of dredged material

Richard Price, research agronomist for the USACE Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) presented Research on the Beneficial Use of Dredged Material which discussed the physical and chemical characteristics of dredged material that relate to its eligibility for beneficial use. He noted that all dredged material is ultimately a product of how the source watershed is used and managed, thus differences between agricultural and industrial uses will be reflected in the chemistry of the material. While all dredged material can be used for something (though treatment may be more costly in some settings than others) the goal should be to determine the level of suitability through testing. Most dredged material, he noted, is good for growing, with appropriate additives usually readily available to DOTs such as cellulose and bio-solids. While there is much uncertainty among DOTs and other state agencies regarding the use of dredged material, they should acknowledge the existence of some 40 years of R&D supporting the science behind risk-based management of this practice.

William Likos, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Wisconsin- Madison College of Engineering presented Beneficial Use of Dredged Materials in Great Lakes Commercial Ports for Transportation Projects. This CFIRE funded research is underway on the development of a framework for use of dredged material for DOT projects. The objective is to match the material properties of available material with specific project needs. The framework will include 1) applications for beneficial use in transportation projects, 2) required geotechnical properties, 3) geotechnical laboratory and field methods, 4) quantitative specifications for transportation applications and 5) Great Lakes locations where sourced. Challenges in acceptance of beneficial use were highlighted by a survey of DOT personnel in which 62 percent responded that they would not consider dredged material as a substitute for traditional material sources. Also noted was the fact that the greatest energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in DOT projects are generated by the production of materials.

Beneficial use in practice

Dick Lee, RSMT and ERDC (ret.), presented Beneficial Uses of Dredged Material which introduced a wide variety of potential uses for dredged material.

Robert Stanley, soils engineer for the Iowa DOT, presented Iowa Experiences which focused on how dredged material was used successfully to fill a scour hole in mitigation of damage at the IA 175 bridge from the Missouri River flood of 2011 as well as repair of a damaged road berm along the same road. He also discussed where dredged material was used in large quantities for the reconstruction of two additional US highways in Iowa.

Julie Bishop, environmental program supervisor in the Palm Beach County (FA) office of environmental resources management, presented Beneficial Reuse Of MaterialsTo Restore An Urban Estuary which discussed numerous dredging projects involving use of dredged “muck” as a commodity with value, including Lake Worth Lagoon, Peanut Island and Snook Island. Noted was use of dredged material to restore and/or create wetland habitat, enhance fisheries and restore benthos to generate mitigation credits in support of other FA DOT project work.

Matthew Dalon, project engineer for Ocean & Coastal Consultants, presented A Decade of Experience with Beneficial Use in New Jersey for W. Scott Douglas, New Jersey Department of Transportation dredging program manager. Examples were given of beneficial use in the New York-New Jersey region, including NY/NJ harbor where one to two million cubic yards of material are dredged annually and all is used beneficially, primarily for site remediation after processing. Distinction was made that dredged material is not a type of material, but a source of material.

Dean Haen, Green Bay port director for the Brown County (WI) Port and Solid Waste Department, presented Beneficial Use Overview: Green Bay, WI which discussed how some 150,000 to 250,000 cubic yards of material dredged annually from the port of Green Bay must be put to upland use, as CDFs and open water placement are not viable options. The result has been beneficial use of dewatered dredged material mined from the existing Bayport CDF, the capping of Renard Island with dredged material, a current project to create nearshore habitat through the restoration of the Cat Island chain with clean dredged material, , and a potential use of dredged material for a state highway project. Noted was the fact that use of dredged material is particularly beneficial when it can save taxpayers’ money.

Day 2

Federal and state policy and regulatory perspectives

Jan Miller, USACE environmental engineer, presented Meeting the non- federal cost share and other financial/administrative issues, covering such topics as the challenges facing beneficial use including costs comparative to other available materials, proximity to project sites, and public acceptance. The federal standard/base plan was explained as the least costly dredged material management alternative that is both feasible from an engineering standpoint and environmentally acceptable. The base plan is important, as any costs above that for beneficial use typically involve a non-federal cost share.

Richard Stewart, director of the Transportation and Logistics Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, presented a State permit process map comparing the processes in the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota to get all the proper permits and authorizations for a project using dredged material beneficially. The research included identification of all the agencies to be contacted, the testing and permits required, the time typically involved, what the two states’ regulatory policies allowed for beneficial use, and how the process in the two states differed.

Available tools for finding appropriate dredged material for beneficial use

David Knight, contract ports and navigation specialist for the Great Lakes Commission, presented the online tool Recycling Dredged Material in the Great Lakes, which uses USACE data to identify on an interactive map all the federally authorized harbors in the Great Lakes, and all the confined disposal facilities (CDFs) for dredged material in the Great Lakes states, including vital data to promote beneficial use of the material such as the CDF owner/operator, physical characteristics of the material, and transportation access to the material. The website also has a feature that automatically identifies all the CDFs in a given distance when a potential DOT user enters a specific location.

Richard Price, research agronomist for the USACE Engineer Research and Development Center, presented the Updated beneficial use technical testing manual and provided guidance on how the federal government establishes the standards determining suitability of dredged material for beneficial use. Referenced was a four-part formula typically required for success in any beneficial reuse project: 1) technical feasibility, 2) legal and regulatory clearance, 3) public acceptance, and 4) economic benefit.

Exploring the way ahead

Gene Clark and David Knight led an open discussion on strategies to encourage and promote use of dredged material by state departments of transportation. Topics included:

  • Further investigation of the use of dredged material to generate “mitigation credits” by creating or restoring habitat to offset loss of habitat in other DOT projects.
  • Further investigation of monitoring and tracking material placed in CDFs to better identify specific geotechnical characteristics of material at different locations and strata of each CDF.
  • Using as a model the best practices involved with management of fly ash and as an ingredient in the mixing of concrete. (re-word better?)
  • The challenge of establishing a “track record” of dredged material use for transportation projects, for DOT personnel wary of exploring new, untested approaches to project management even when regulatory guidelines are met.
  • Characterize the physical properties of dredged material in terms of commonly used DOT material specifications such as AASHTO specifications.
  • Investigate ways that dredged material can be “blended” or “processed” with other material in order to meet standard DOT specifications.

Summary Report submitted by David L. Knight (Great Lakes Commission; dknight050@gmail.com) and Gene R. Clark (UW Sea Grant Institute; gclark1@uwsuper.edu)

Steering Committee

  • Dr. Teresa Adams, UW-Madison
  • Dr. Ernie Perry, UW-Madison
  • Gene Clark, UW-Madison Sea Grant Institute
  • Dave Knight, Great Lakes Commission
  • Steven Krebs, Wisconsin DOT
  • Sherrie Walz, Wisconsin DOT
  • Tony Friona, USACE
  • Craig Forgette, USACE
  • Greta Smith, AASHTO
  • Bill Paape, MARAD
  • Marc Tuchman, US EPA
  • Steve Galarneau, Wisconsin DNR
  • Joe Cappel, Port of Toledo
  • Dr. Richard Stewart, UW-Superior
  • Dr. Habib Tabatabai, UW-Milwaukee
  • Dr. William Likos, UW-Madison
  • Jim Weakley, Lake Carriers Association
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