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Water: Dredged Material Management

Managing Sediments Associated with Dredging

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Managing Sediments Associated with Dredging

Dredged Material Management

Regional Sediment Management


Overview: Effective sediment management and dredged material planning require open and early communication among federal and state dredged material regulators, watershed planners, and other interested parties.  Coordination among these groups ensures: (1) sources of sediment (and sources of contamination carried by the sediment) are addressed; (2) the broadest range of beneficial use and disposal alternatives for dredged material are evaluated; and (3) adequate funding for dredged material use or placement is secured.

Background: Several hundred million cubic yards of sediment are dredged from waterways, ports, and harbors each year to maintain the nation's navigation system for commercial, national defense, and recreational purposes.  Sediment overloading from land and stream erosion causes significant environmental and economic challenges.  In some cases, excessive sediment in rivers, reservoirs, and estuaries may contribute to high turbidity, loss of flood-carrying capacity, and sediment deposition in navigable waterways. In other cases, a shortage of sediment causes coastal erosion, streambank erosion, and wetland loss. Many water resource projects designed to remedy local sediment problems cause even larger problems at other locations in the watershed.  Sediment management and planning often occurs outside the context of watershed management plans. These current-day practices often adversely affect navigation, flood and storm damage reduction efforts, and environmental quality in water resource projects.  Sediment managers need to ensure that sediment management occurs in the context of watershed management, and that watershed management plans incorporate both private and federal dredging.

Managing Sediments in the Watershed: Coordination among dredged material managers and watershed managers is important. Sediment and dredged material management planning often occurs outside the context of watershed management plans, many resource projects are designed to remedy local sediment problems and may potentially result in larger problems some distance from the project. Additionally, watershed management planning may not incorporate dredged material and sediment system considerations, such as competing demands for sediment, or potential beneficial uses of dredged material opportunities. This can result in missed opportunities to improve navigation, flood and storm reduction efforts, and environmental quality in water resource projects; it may also result in a loss of beneficial use opportunities.

Coordinated planning is beneficial for dredged material managers and watershed managers. Although planning often occurs separately, sediment management and watershed management planning share similar goals. Both seek to control upstream erosion and pollution to improve downstream water quality, reduce the need for dredging, and improve downstream sediment quality.

Coordinating watershed and sediment/dredged material management can also result in economic and ecological benefits. Improved coordination may: decrease the need for dredging and dredged material disposal sites, increase leveraging of funds and cross-program sharing of technical and regulatory capabilities, improve efficiency permitting for dredging projects, potentially help reduce contaminants entering the system, as well as reduce soil loss and waterbody siltation, and can result in increased beneficial uses of dredged material and increased protection of natural resources.

Recognizing that sediment is a resource can also benefit both sediment and watershed managers. For example, beneficial use of dredged material for wetland restoration or shore protection helps preserve aquatic resources, can reduce the amount of sediment removed from a system, and can reduce the amount of material that requires disposal.

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