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Why you should care about dredging!

The dredging industry is at a cross-roads Many of the inland maritime lochs and dams are in a state of disrepair, and require significant long-term upgrades. Similarly, the deepening of the Panama Canal will require that many East Coast ports deepen their channels to allow 50 foot ships to unload and load their cargo. And yet, many challenges exist.

Funding for dredging is held up by Congress, even though funding for highways, rail, and some inland projects have been approved. Most dredging projects are paid through funds collected on imported goods at approximately $1.5B per year and within this “Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund”, the US Army Corps gets to spend 700M of that and there is a huge difference in what goes in and what comes out. Further, dredging remains a competitive business, and has undergone significant consolidation. Finally, environmental regulation surrounding sediment deposits, air, and noise pollution will post additional costs to dredgers. This report summarizes some of these challenges, and identifies how these major trends.

Dredging activity is booming around the world, largely in response to the robust growth in global trade Currently, over $15 billion in projects are underway. Beaches contribute to the country’s $26 billion trade surplus in tourism. With more than 50 percent of the U.S. population within an hour’s drive of the seashore, beaches represent one of our nation’s most important economic and natural resources.

In developed beachfront communities, this resource often requires physical maintenance or beach nourishment. The Dredging Industry helps to save shorelines around the world, in conjunction with State and Local governments, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies, to plan beach replenishment projects. Dredging restores natural barriers that protect shoreline property from disappearing into the ocean.

Wetlands and marshes are an important and fragile part of the coastal environment. Forty per-cent of our nation’s wetlands are found in Louisiana, constituting one of the world’s most productive ecosystems. Unfortunately, we are losing wetlands so fast that a slice of Louisiana the size of the District of Columbia vanishes each year. Over the last 50 years, Louisiana’s loss is responsible for 80 percent of wetland loss in the United States.

With the help of legislation similar to the landmark Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act of 1990, many states are fighting to save these precious resources. The dredging industry is playing a leading role in many of these environmental restoration projects. A prime example is Bayou La Branch, Louisiana, pictured here, a 1994 marsh restoration project. As wetlands disappear, so do many wildlife species that are an integral part of our natural heritage.

In other parts of the country, such as the Chesapeake Bay, Southern California, Puget Sound and the Texas coast, the restoration of wetland environments is a by product of other, mostly navigation related, dredging projects. Up and down the U.S. coastline, in every port city, the dredging industry is keeping the nation’s trading gateways open for business. Together, these seaports handle 95 percent of America’s foreign trade.

A great case in point is the Port of Oakland, one of the largest general cargo ports in the United States, which lost market share over the last decade due to navigation channels that were unable to handle the world’s largest container ships.

After many stops and starts, a project to improve the Port’s shipping lanes has been brought to fruition. With deeper channels, the Port’s expansion generates 4,100 new jobs, $500 million in annual business revenues and $15 million in new state and local taxes. In addition to fulfilling the need for a productive port industry to keep U.S. products competitive, our seaports are responsible for contributing $780 billion to the Gross Domestic Product and for 15 million jobs. While the primary goal of dredging is to create and maintain safe and efficient navigation channels, the excavated soil is often used for environmentally beneficial purposes, including the creation of fish and wildlife habitats.

In most cases, when beach-quality sand is dredged, it is placed either directly on the shore or in the surf zone to be delivered to the shore by natural processes. Without the nation’s inland and coastal waterways, the cost of most products that American businesses and consumers rely on would increase. That’s because the towing and barge industry provides the most cost-effective mode of transporting freight. In each of the 41 states served by our inland waterways, maintenance dredging is essential. Without periodic dredging, the cost advantage provided by water transportation would be lost.

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