FORUM FOR DISCUSSION OF HOPPER DREDGE ISSUES
Since the last century, the Corps of Engineers and the dredging industry have
had a successful means of addressing hopper dredge issues through an organization
known as the Industry/Corps Hopper Dredge Management Group (ICHDMG). Hopper dredges
are the large, ocean-going, self-propelled dredges that are used to do much of
the port and harbor dredging in the U.S. The overall objective of the ICHDMG has
been to address pressing dredging matters in an open forum and on a regular basis
with wide representation from both industry and the Corps, in order to resolve
issues before they become crises. With meetings held several times per year, usually
in Washington, D.C., the Group considers a variety of issues and matters of concern,
both old and new. The agenda is usually long, and discussion can be intense but
fruitful. Industry representatives from the five U.S. hopper dredging companies
are always present, along with representatives from Corps Headquarters and most
Corps districts and divisions. Jim Walker, Corps Navigation Program Manager, and
Barry Holliday, Technical Director of the Dredging Contractors of America, serve as
the co-chairs of the ICHDMG.
The purpose of ICHDMG has always been to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency
of our Nation's dredging resources, to enhance the viability and competitiveness
of our ports and waterways by maintaining communication between the public and
private sectors, and to ensure procedures are in place and sufficient hopper dredges
are available to respond to urgent and emergency dredging needs, while meeting
routine dredging requirements. One of the principal achievements of ICHDMG has
been development of an emergency dredging protocol known as the "Raise the
Flag Procedure", which is recognized by all as a highly successful procedure
to accomplish urgent, unexpected dredging.
ICHDMG has proven to be an effective forum for identifying problems and crafting
solutions in an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation. Valuable information
is shared and problems are defused before they escalate. For example, at each
ICHDMG meeting, projected Corps dredging schedules by district are presented and
discussed. The impacts on dredging caused by environmental windows, Corps and
industry safety procedures, and R&D efforts, such as those associated with
turtle drag heads, are a few of the topics that have been addressed by the Group.
Additionally, planned major overhauls for industry and Federal hoppers, including
new hopper construction, and its associated impacts on dredging schedules, as
well as many other matters of critical interest and concern to both the Corps
and industry are frequently part of the discussion.
The ICHDMG cannot promise issue resolution but does guarantee that all matters
of concern will be addressed and a better understanding of the issues will result.
ICHDMG has proven its worth through the years and its value can be measured by
the continuing high turnout at its meetings. So long as the public and private
sectors are willing to talk, there will always be a need for the ICHDMG.