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Water: Dredged Material Management

National Dredging Policy

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Policy Findings

  • A network of ports and harbors is essential to the United States' economy, affecting its competitiveness in world trade and national security. Port facilities serve as a key link in the intermodal transportation chain and can realize their full potential as magnets for shipping and commerce only if dredging occurs in a timely and cost-effective manner.
  • The nation's coastal, ocean, and freshwater resources are critical assets which must be protected, conserved, and restored. These resources are equally important to the United States by providing numerous economic and environmental benefits.
  • Consistent and integrated application of existing environmental statutes can protect the environment and can allow for sustainable economic growth.
  • Close coordination and planning at all governmental levels, and with all aspects of the private sector, are essential to developing and maintaining the nation's ports and harbors in a manner that will increase economic growth and protect, conserve, and restore coastal resources.
  • Planning for the development and maintenance of the nation's ports and harbors should occur in the context of broad transportation and environmental planning efforts such as the National Transportation System and the ecosystem/watershed management approach.

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Policy Principles

  • The regulatory process must be timely, efficient, and predictable, to the maximum extent practicable.
  • Advanced dredged material management planning must be conducted on a port or regional scale by a partnership that includes the Federal government, the port authorities, state and local governments, natural resource agencies, public interest groups, the maritime industry, and private citizens. To be effective, this planning must be done prior to individual Federal or non-Federal dredging project proponents seeking individual project approval.
  • Dredged material managers must become more involved in watershed planning to emphasize the importance of point and non-point source pollution controls to reduce harbor sediment contamination.
  • Dredged material is a resource, and environmentally-sound beneficial use of dredged material for such projects as wetland creation, beach nourishment, and development projects must be encouraged.

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In 1993, the Secretary of Transportation convened an Interagency Workgroup on the Dredging Process. The Interagency Workgroup was charged with investigating and recommending actions to improve the dredging project review process. In 1994, the Interagency Workgroup released its report, The Dredging Process in the United States: An Action Plan for Improvement (1994 Interagency Workgroup Report). The 1994 Interagency Workgroup Report (PDF) (41 pp, 184K, About PDF) contained 18 recommendations and a proposed National Dredging Policy.

On June 22, 1995, the President endorsed the National Dredging Policy and directed Federal agencies to implement the Report's recommendations. In response to Recommendation 9 of the Report, the National Dredging Team (NDT) was established. The NDT serves as a forum for implementation of the National Dredging Policy and the Report's recommendations. NDT members and participating agencies:

  • Promote national and regional consistency on dredging issues,
  • Provide a mechanism for conflict resolution, and
  • Provide a forum for information exchanges among Federal, State, and local agencies and stakeholders.

Although major progress was made in carrying out the 18 recommendations, many challenges remained. In 2001, the NDT sponsored a workshop, Dredged Material Management: Issues and Needed Actions for the Next Decade. The workshop provided an opportunity to conduct a fresh assessment of dredged material management issues and needed actions for the first decade of the new millennium. Workshop participants developed the Action Agenda for the Next Decade (2003 Action Agenda). The 2003 Action Agenda succeeds the 1994 Interagency Report and contains 22 recommendations to help address issues that impact:

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