Washington Waves
Washington Waves

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.

All stakeholders may provide oral or written comments during the sessions and will be selected to speak on a first-come, first-served basis.

The sessions will be recorded to capture the public’s comments.

The Webex/teleconferences may be joined five minutes prior to the scheduled 1 p.m. EDT start time using the web link https://usace1.webex.com/meet/WRDA2020. Attendees may also call in at 844-800-2712 and use access code 199 937 4287 when prompted.

The Corps is also accepting stakeholder comments on WRDA 2020 implementation guidance during the ongoing 60-day comment period that ends May 7, via the following methods:

Federal eRulemaking Portal: www.regulations.gov/ (preferred method). Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.

Email: WRDA2020@usace.army.mil. Include ID No. COE-2021-0002 in the subject line of the message.

Mail: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ATTN: CECW-P 3F91, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 441 G St. NW, Washington, DC 20314.

For additional information, contact Gib Owen at 571-274-1929 or Amy Frantz at 202-761-0106.

EPA Administrator Confirmed

Michael Regan of North Carolina, President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), won a comfortable 66-34 confirmation vote in the Senate.

Supporters praised Regan’s record as a bipartisan problem solver while leading his state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Regan will return scientific integrity to an agency suffering from low morale.

Citing major issues such as the climate crisis, Carper expressed confidence Regan is the right leader at this time in the nation’s history.

Republican opposition in part grew out of Regan’s reluctance to be more direct on whether he plans to rescind the year-old Navigable Waters Protection Rule that replaced the Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

“He would not rule out a return to the WOTUS rule,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the ranking member of the key Senate committee.

Capito also expressed concern over the influence of “unaccountable climate czar” Gina McCarthy, who led the EPA during the Obama administration and now plays a key role on environmental issues in the Biden administration.

Great Lakes Advisory Board

The Great Lakes Advisory Board (GLAB) is scheduled to meet remotely March 30–31.

Set to begin at 1 p.m. CST on March 30 and 9 a.m. CST March 31, the meeting will have its agenda and other materials posted on the GLAB website at www.glri.us/glab.

Members of the public seeking to view the meeting but not provide oral comments must register by 3 p.m. CST on March 26.

Those seeking to make oral comments must register by contacting the designated federal officer directly by 3 p.m. CST on March 21 to be placed on a list of registered commenters and receive special instructions for participation.

For additional information or to register, contact Edlynzia Barnes at 312-886-6249 or email barnes.edlynzia@epa.gov.