Dredging is necessary to construct navigation channels and maintain water depths for safe navigation at existing ports and harbors. Dredging is also required to construct and maintain other important facilities, such as water supply intakes, bridges and utility crossings and in the remediation of contaminated sediments. Currently, most material dredged from Great Lakes harbors, channels and lakes is placed in confined disposal facilities (CDFs), discharged into open waters or deposited on or near shores for beach nourishment. However, Great Lakes CDF capacity is diminishing and open water discharge is increasingly unacceptable to the public.
The beneficial use of dredged material allows for recycling of dredged material, particularly that material which is not contaminated or only mildly contaminated. With proper testing and government guidelines that protect of human health and the environment, beneficial use of dredged material offers a sustainable long-term management option for dredged material in the Great Lakes Basin. Lack of a national or basinwide regulatory framework hinders beneficial use of dredged material. Between the fall of 1999 and winter 2001, the Great Lakes Commission’s engaged in a project to advance the beneficial use of dredged material and help address the need for alternative dredged material management options in the Great Lakes Basin.
Under the project, a regional Beneficial Use Task Force was assembled. Task force members were appointed by members of the Great Lakes Dredging Team, which served in an advisory capacity to the task force. Task force members were charged with identifying state/federal concerns and priorities regarding beneficial use. Collectively, the task force served as a vehicle for state-federal cooperation in identification of mechanisms to overcome state and federal regulatory obstacles to beneficial use. Task force members participated in two meetings during the course of the project. In-person meetings were complemented by individual phone conversations, e-mails and review of written materials.
A final Task Force Report was released in the fall of 2001. The report contains 18 recommendations with associated findings, descriptions of selected Great Lakes beneficial use projects, descriptions of selected dredged material treatment technologies for beneficial use and profiles of each Great Lakes state’s regulatory framework for beneficial use of dredged material. The task force also provided oversight and input into the development of an informational booklet on the beneficial use of dredged material as part of the project. Both the task force report and the informational booklet are available on the Great Lakes Dredging Team web site.
Funding support for this project is provided by U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office.