The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking at ways to stop grass carp from spawning in the Sandusky River near Fremont, Ohio, and nearly 3,700 miles of rivers and tributaries connected to Lake Erie where they damage habitats, increase erosion, and threaten the economy.
The USACE Buffalo District, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and Ohio Department of Natural Resources are sharing information about the project and different barriers that could be used to stop grass carp.
To minimize or eliminate the impact on native fish species in the river and not disrupt daily life for the people of Fremont, the barriers being considered are behavioral-only.
Read more about the project here.
Detailed scoping information is available for public comment through Dec. 11.
Nov. 15 marks the second anniversary of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, legislation that delivered $17.1 billion in supplemental funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers across the enterprise. Of that total investment, approximately $1.7 billion was appropriated to the North Atlantic Division to support investigations (studies), construction, the Continuing Authorities Program, and operations and maintenance.
"The transformative investments of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will continue to meet the President’s priorities of strengthening supply chains to bring down costs for working families, protecting American economic competitiveness, combatting climate change, and promoting equity by prioritizing underserved communities," said Michael L. Connor, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works.
At the division, regional management for BIL projects is handled through its Civil Works directorate and specifically by the lead BIL project manager, Ronald Pinzon, who came to the division a year ago after working at the USACE New York District.
“The highlight of working on BIL, especially coming from the district where I worked for about 20 years, is taking all of the experience from other jobs I’ve had and applying it here directly with headquarters regionally, as well as nationally,” said Pinzon. “It’s a whole lot of learning, but it’s also solving issues and barriers that the districts are coming across, and I get to help them with their execution by addressing those challenges.”
Presently, approximately $240 million of NAD’s BIL allocation has been executed. Some project highlights across the region over the past couple of years since BIL was passed include:
The Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration project is in the vicinity of the James and Barren Islands in western Dorchester County, Maryland. It focuses on restoring and expanding island habitat to provide hundreds of acres of wetland and terrestrial habitat for fish, shellfish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals through the beneficial use of dredged material. The project implements a long-term strategy for providing viable placement alternatives to meet the dredging needs of the Port of Baltimore while maximizing the use of dredged materials as a beneficial resource. The project consists of constructing environmental restoration projects at both James and Barren Islands to restore 2,144 acres of remote island habitat (2,072 acres at James Island and 72 acres at Barren Island). BIL appropriated $84 million in construction funds, and the project partnership agreement for the construction phase of the overall $4 billion project was executed Aug. 23, 2022.
At Buffumville Lake in Charlton, Massachusetts, BIL provided more than $530,000 for Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking lot and access improvements. From October 2022 to May 2023 work included removing a shelter, repaving the emergency access road to the beach, increasing ADA parking spaces from three to 10, and building a new paved walkway leading to an ADA-compliant ramp with handrails to the restrooms. The Buffumville team identified the need for this work in 2017 and BIL allowed it to come to fruition. The prior lack of handicapped access was a frequent comment by visitors before the improvements, and according to the site’s park rangers, the team has received many positive comments since the area reopened.
The New York District is leveraging an infusion of $126 million in BIL funding to undertake crucial maintenance and enhancement projects across several vital waterways, including Barnegat Inlet in New Jersey, New York Harbor and the extensive network of channels serving the bustling Port of Newark and Elizabeth in New Jersey. This strategic allocation of funds is poised to fortify the infrastructure that underpins an estimated $15.7 billion in economic activity, both regionally and nationally. The investment will address sediment accumulation, navigational safety, and ecological sustainability, ensuring the shipping and recreational channels remain accessible and reliable. These improvements are expected not only to sustain but to potentially boost economic vitality by optimizing the efficiency of commercial vessel transit and safeguarding the region's reputation as a premier maritime hub.
BIL appropriated $141.7 million in construction funds for the Norfolk Harbor and Channels, 55-ft. Channel Deepening project in Virginia. On Oct. 16, Norfolk District opened bids on USACE’s third construction contract supporting the project. The milestone is significant, because with this path to contract award, the 55-ft. channel project could be ready for use by deeply laden containerships and coal ships as early as the spring of 2025. The contract package also has options for the beneficial use of beach sand at two locations in the city of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Earlier contracts using BIL funds were awarded in August 2022 for the Channel to Newport News and Norfolk Harbor Inners Channels and in April 2023 for Phase 1 of the Atlantic Ocean Channel. Other portions of the project in Thimble Shoal Channel are nearly completed by the Virginia Port Authority to fulfill their share of the overall project cost of approximately $472 million.
The Inland Waterway from Rehoboth Bay to Delaware Bay project (also known as Lewes & Rehoboth Canal in Sussex County, Delaware) received BIL funding enabling the dredging of the federal channel of the canal for the first time in many years. USACE’s contractor began work in October 2023. The dredged material from the canal will be placed in a facility in Lewes, Delaware, and the contractor will be removing approximately 40,000 cubic yards of sediment at a cost of $1.6 million. The waterway is used by commercial and recreational fishing charter boats, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Delaware Bay and River Cooperative (DBRC). BIL appropriated $3.78 million for Operations and Maintenance funding.
“Throughout the North Atlantic Division, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law brings solid investment to a variety of projects that benefit the people of the region in terms of safety, quality of life and disaster mitigation, to name just a few important aspects,” said Col. John P. Lloyd, NAD commander and division engineer. “This supplemental funding has enhanced USACE’s ability to deliver the program and meet the needs of our state and local partners on projects that will make a difference at the community level.”
USACE’s overall fiscal year spend plans and policy guidance for implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are listed on the headquarters website at: https://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Supplemental-Work/BIL/.
In September, the St. Paul District conducted an on-site training event with federal and state partners to look at past and ongoing island projects to determine the best path forward for restoration projects as part of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration program, or UMRR.
Participants included representatives from the Corps and agency representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as from the Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa departments of natural resources.
“Today is a training exercise,” said Scott Baker, Winona resident engineer. “We are seeing some typical projects to talk about lessons learned, what worked well and what didn’t work well, so that knowledge can be incorporated into future projects.”
The team of agency representatives visited Conway Lake and Harpers Slough restoration projects, in Pool 9 of the Mississippi River, which were completed in 2022. The team also visited McGregor Lake Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Project, an active construction project.
“These exercises are important because we’re getting more money for island projects, and we have more projects now in various phases than we’ve ever had before,” said Baker.
Baker explained that these projects are important for wildlife.
“The river is losing habitat at a very fast rate. The islands are disappearing, which had lead to increasingly turbulent water and light can’t get through to help the vegetation grow. That habitat and vegetation is particularly important for migratory birds,” said Baker.
UMRR started in 1986 when environmentalists filed a lawsuit when Lock and Dam 27 was built, wanting environmental work done on the river. The compromise started the Environmental Management Program, which would become UMRR. It was authorized for $200 million over a 20-year period and was reauthorized in 2006.
UMRR ensures the coordinated development and enhancement of the Upper Mississippi River system with a primary emphasis on habitat restoration projects and resource monitoring. In the 36-year history of the program, more than 55 habitat projects benefiting approximately 100,000 acres from Minneapolis to St. Louis, have been completed.
“I enjoy these projects in particular because you can see tangible results for future generations to enjoy the wildlife,” said Baker.
The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center recently launched a large-scale soil washing effort to remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl, or PFAS, pollutants at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
The $27.6 million military construction-funded project is led by a joint team from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District, and supports the Department of the Air Force’s effort to address PFAS at the close air support training installation. AFCEC is a primary subordinate unit of AFIMSC.
Soil washing is a closed-loop, water-based process that separates soil fractions and captures PFAS substances in granular activated carbon and ion-exchange resin filters, said Guy Warren, Project Manager at USACE’s Alaska District who manages onsite project execution.
This remediation technology has been in the market for the past three decades, but the partners have expanded its applicability to treat highly challenging fluorinated chemicals.
“This is the first-time soil washing has been used to treat PFAS-impacted soil,” said Michael Boese AFCEC Lead Restoration Project Manager at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
AFCEC awarded the contract through USACE in November 2022 to treat and dispose of 130,000 cubic yards of PFAS-impacted soil that had been excavated during a MILCON project to build infrastructure to house F-35A fighter squadrons.
The cleanup effort began in August 2023 and is projected to be complete in summer 2025.
“Both AFCEC and USACE teams bring deep technical, engineering and environmental knowledge and have played a key role in determining a viable and cost-effective technology to treat Eielson’s soil piles,” said Roy Willis, AFCEC Restoration Project Manager at JBER.
Prior to selecting soil washing for the Eielson project, AFCEC environmental restoration experts participated in two PFAS pilot studies at Eielson AFB funded by the Department of Defense’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program. The pilot program provided a site-specific comparison of the cost and performance for two viable technologies – soil washing and thermal desorption.
Additionally, with the support of USACE, the Air Force conducted a similar soil washing study at Colorado’s Peterson AFB.
Data obtained from soil washing pilot studies showed high success rates achieving more than 99% PFAS reduction in the coarse soil fraction in Colorado and approximately 70% in fine-grained soils at the Alaska installation.
“We determined soil washing to be the most effective technology for the scale and scope of the Eielson project,” Willis said. “The team feels confident this technology will bring successful results.”
Since the project’s kick-off, Eielson’s treatment plant is fully operational and approximately 1,500 cubic yards of soil have been processed. Due to the weather, the field season will resume in May and run through September when the operation is expected to be in full swing and treating 30 cubic yards of soil per hour.
“Once the soil has been cleaned and deemed safe with no PFAS detection or levels below the Alaska state standards, it can then be repurposed for other projects,” Boese said. “However, if there is detection, we will dispose it within PFAS guidance.”
The restoration work follows the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation PFAS soil disposal standards.
Since 2017, AFCEC’s environmental team has been coordinating project requirements with the state and federal regulatory agents ensuring the selected remediation technology is fully approved.
Use of this technology at other Air Force sites will require a significant volume of impacted soil to make it cost-effective and similar soil type, Warren said. For example, PFAS soils with high clay content may not be suitable for this technology.
“We are excited to see the effort is already providing results,” Boese said. “The efficacy of soil washing technology will produce cost and performance data that will help DAF and our regulatory partners program and approve future remediation projects.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District Mississippi Coastal Improvement Program (MsCIP), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had a problem.
NOAA deploys two Real-Time Currents and Meteorological Buoys (CURBY) at least once a year to ensure everything works while maintaining their skills in case of an emergency.
In Mobile, the MsCIP team needed field data for coastal modeling for its Coast-wide Beach and Dune Restoration Project in Jackson County, Mississippi.
Enter Richard Allen, USACE Mobile District Hydrologic Data Collection Unit team lead, to marry the two sides together as the Mobile District and NOAA launched a buoy in Biloxi Bay near Ocean Springs, Mississippi, on Oct. 25, 2023.
The buoy deployment helped both sides get what they needed.
“The NOAA buoy is being deployed to collect field data that will be utilized in coastal modeling,” said Valerie Morrow, USACE Mobile District Coastal Resiliency technical lead. “Mobile District will benefit from this approach because it is cheaper than other data collection alternatives, the data collected is higher quality than other alternatives, and the ability to mobilize the buoy is quicker than other alternatives.”
For NOAA, deploying the buoy gave them the training and testing needed for optimal operation.
The Mobile District supported the buoy by launching it from its boats, allowing NOAA to practice using a “vessel of opportunity.”
Grace Gray, NOAA Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, said it was the perfect opportunity for her team to get real-world training and help a partner agency.
“In addition to using this opportunity to hone our deployment skills and test the equipment, we wanted to exercise the scenario in which a partner agency requests the use of a CURBY, to work out some of the administrative aspects with environmental compliance and reimbursement for buoy components before we’re in a time-sensitive situation. This was also an opportunity to deploy the buoy from someone else’s vessel. So the more opportunities to practice on other vessels, the better.”
The project element that the buoy deployment will benefit is beach and dune improvements to approximately four miles of the existing mainland coast within Jackson County, Mississippi. These improvements include constructing a 60-foot-wide vegetated dune field approximately 50 feet from any existing seawalls.
These beach and dune areas are critical to nesting and resting shorebirds such as the State listed least tern and the threatened piping plover. In addition to the ecological benefits, the dunes would provide incidental coastal storm risk management benefits, particularly during more frequent lower-intensity coastal storm events. In accordance with the provisions of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 1986, as amended, cost-sharing would be 65 percent Federal and 35 percent non-Federal funding.
Allen said the buoy deployment was a success.
“Joint operations between NOAA and USACE resulted in a successful deployment of the CURBY,” Allen said. “The buoy began collecting data immediately. This data is being transmitted in real-time to NOAA servers and made available for USACE project team members to support the hydrodynamic modeling and design. The buoy is expected to remain onsite for 90 days, at which time NOAA and USACE will recover the buoy.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Buffalo District and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) celebrated completion of the 2023 construction season’s work on a new wetland ecosystem being built in Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.
USACE and its contractor, Michigan-based Ryba Marine Construction Co., placed bedding stone across the mouth of the abandoned Shipping Slip 3, forming the first layer of a submerged breakwater to contain material dredged from the Buffalo River and placed in the slip to create the base of the new ecosystem.
“The Corps of Engineers is excited to share this season’s progress on the Outer Harbor wetland project with Western New York,” said Lt. Col. Colby Krug, commander of the USACE Buffalo District. “The positive impact this project will have on generations of people, plants, and wildlife across the community is something I’m proud of, especially as a Buffalo native.”
“This $14.8 million initiative is that latest component of a two-decade, more-than $200 million, coordinated, multi-agency effort to take Buffalo’s greatest natural asset, its Lake Erie shoreline, and convert it from an inaccessible post-industrial wasteland into an interconnected system of parks and urban natural habitat, the acreage of which is roughly equal to New York City’s Central Park,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “I thank the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation under the direction of Governor Kathy Hochul, and the Buffalo District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the leadership of Lt. Col. Colby Krug for their leadership in advancing this important work.”
“It’s been exciting to watch the progress in creating Slip 3’s new wetland ecosystem,” said Mark Wendel, president of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. “Directly adjacent to Wilkeson Pointe, where an extensive, year-and-a-half long improvement project is starting this fall, the Slip 3 project will help renew key elements of the aquatic habitat that New York State and Governor Hochul recognize are crucial to a vibrant waterfront.”
“Addressing legacy pollution from the Great Lakes and improving critical ecosystems is an investment in public health and our future,” said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. “EPA is proud to work with the partners through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, to improve and restore aquatic habitat along Buffalo’s waterfront area. This work will benefit all of Buffalo’s communities and the natural world for generations to come.”
In partnership with ECHDC, the overall $14.8 million project aims to reverse coastal wetland degradation in the Niagara River system and across the Great Lakes. Decades of industrial development and hardening of shorelines has diminished fish nursery and spawning habitats in these areas.
The project is being conducted in three phases – construction of the breakwater, placement of dredged material, and formation of aquatic and sub-aquatic habitat.
This season’s construction, which started in September and concluded on Oct. 19, included placement of 17,200 tons of bedding stone in Slip 3. The bedding stone is expected to displace silty sediment at the bottom of the slip and settle over the winter.
During the celebration, Krug, Higgins, Wendel, and USEPA Public Affairs Officer Mike Basile, along with members of the ECHDC Board of Directors, representatives of New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s office, New York State Assembly District 149, the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning, and the City of Buffalo Common Council contributed to the project’s current phase by ceremoniously tossing stones into the slip at the site of the breakwater.
USACE and Ryba Marine will resume construction in 2024, with placement of additional bedding stone, followed by 4.8 feet of underlayer stone and 7.2 feet of armor stone.
The completed breakwater will extend across the entire mouth of the slip, with a portion submerged to allow for connectivity to the Lake Erie and the increased health of the future wetlands. Construction of the breakwater (Phase 1) is expected to conclude in September 2024.
In the project’s second phase, approximately 285,000 cubic yards of sediment dredged from the Buffalo River over a six-year period (an estimated three cycles) will be placed in Slip 3 to create 6.7 acres of coastal wetland habitat. The first cycle of maintenance dredging used to contribute to the project is contracted to start in October 2024. The sediment is certified as clean by state and federal standards and approved for this beneficial use.
In the project’s third phase, planting of native species will include submerged and emergent aquatic vegetation that can compete with invasive species and provide high-quality aquatic habitat for both aquatic species and migratory/resident bird species. The new habitat will also include gravel beds, rock piles, root wads, logs, and existing dock piles to provide maximum habitat complexity and structure.
Project information and safety signage will be installed along Fuhrman Boulevard outside Slip 3 and neighboring Wilkeson Pointe to keep the public informed and help ensure safety at the site. Hazard marker buoys will be placed to mark where the breakwater stone has been placed since the entirety of the breakwater will be submerged until underlayer stone is placed next season.
Plans for habitat creation at the Outer Harbor used lessons learned from previous partnership between USACE and the City of Buffalo in the first successful beneficial use project on the Great Lakes – restoring a wetland ecosystem at Unity Island. Slip 3 was identified by a multiagency committee as a habitat management opportunity in the Niagara River Area of Concern.
The feasibility study for this project was 100% federally funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). USACE and ECHDC executed a Project Partnership Agreement in January 2022 enabling the design and implementation phase, now underway. Design and implementation is cost-shared 65% Federal (USACE) and 35% Non-Federal (ECHDC with funding from the GLRI).
Based on the current USACE construction budget, the ECHDC total commitment over the course of the project will be $4,972,000 over a 12-year period. This funding is from the New York Power Authority, through relicensing agreements tied to the operation of the Niagara Power Project.
Renderings of the site are available at: https://esd.ny.gov/sites/default/files/ECHDC-slip-No3-images.pdf
More information about the USACE Buffalo District is available online at: https://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/.
The Buffalo District delivers world class engineering solutions to the Great Lakes Region, the Army and the Nation in order to ensure national security, environmental sustainability, water resource management, and emergency assistance during peace and war.
Aptim Federal Services, LLC (APTIM), a market leader in decommissioning and environmental solutions, announced today that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Baltimore District has awarded the Company a contract to Decommission and Dismantle the SM-1A Reactor Facility located at Fort Greely, Alaska. In addition to managing the decommissioning and dismantlement of the decades-old reactor, the APTIM-led team will integrate and utilize mature, proven innovations to dispose of both hazardous and radioactive soil and debris from the remote Alaskan installation to the lower-48.
The contract was awarded to APTIM-Amentum Alaska Decommissioning, LLC (A3D), which is a joint venture led by APTIM and Amentum Technical Services, LLC. Other members of A3D’s team include Heritage – M2C1 Joint Venture, a HUBZone small business location in Delta Junction, AK; Lynden Logistics; Brice Environmental; Oak Ridge Technologies; ReNuke Services; AECOM Technical Services; and Delta Junction Medical.
The standalone C-contract has an estimated value of $95.5M, over a 6-year ordering period. The work to be performed under this contract includes planning, permitting, and engineering; site preparation; demolition and disposal of facilities, including components from the deactivated and defueled nuclear reactor, related wells and utility corridors, plus other ancillary facilities. The contract also includes remediation of contaminated soils, a final status survey, and site restoration.
David Lowe, Senior Vice President of APTIM’s Nuclear Decommissioning business unit, said, “APTIM and our heritage companies have a long history of supporting USACE and the Army Reactor Office (ARO) and have managed numerous Decontamination and Decommissioning projects across the federal complex. Our extensive experience performing reactor decommissioning projects for USACE and the ARO enables us to bring advanced innovations and solutions to complete the work safely and effectively at Fort Greely.” Mr. Lowe continued, “We will partner with USACE , regulators, and community stakeholders to eliminate the environmental liabilities of this legacy, aging nuclear facility.”
“We appreciate USACE’s confidence in APTIM and our partners to perform this critical work. We have a tremendous track record of successfully managing high hazard decommissioning work and look forward to bringing innovations and an experienced team to the last standing nuclear reactor constructed as part of the Army Nuclear Power Program (ANPP),” said Steve Moran, APTIM’s Army Reactor Program Manager and the Project Manager for the SM-1A project.
The SM-1A reactor achieved criticality in 1962 and was shut down in March of 1972, followed by the removal and disposition of the spent nuclear fuel in 1973. The primary mission of the single-loop, 20.2 megawatt-thermal pressurized water reactor was to establish a cold-weather nuclear power plant to support power to Fort Greely, with a secondary mission to study the economics of operating a nuclear electric power plant as compared to operating a conventional oil-fired system in a remote location.
An on-site kickoff meeting at Fort Greely will in late October 2023, paving the way for our preparatory work at the site. The team is targeting a full mobilization to the site by mid-2024. Project completion is currently anticipated by 2029. Project information can also be found on the USACE website www.nab.usace.army.mil/SM-1A/.
It’s already hot and humid on Saturday, and it’s only eight a.m. in Tampa, Florida. Channelside Drive is bumper-to-bumper traffic. Even though the temperature hasn’t changed much in the eight years since I lived there, the area has changed dramatically.
According to the U.S. Census, the population percent change from April 1, 2022, to July 1, 2022, has increased by 3.5%. Tampa is awake from its sleepy potential, and it’s evident that the demands of the port have grown as well.
I parked my car and grabbed my gear because I needed to see it for myself: traffic, families, lovers, and friends all moving to the hum of suitcases laden with vacation wear and waiting to embark on a cruise ship to some far away location. In the distance, I observed container ships and other commercial vessels hunkered in the port for the weekend.
Tampa’s rapid growth has occurred over several years, and I am not the only one that has noticed. Legislators, commercial entities, local government, federal agencies, and non-governmental agencies alike acknowledge the growth with the momentum of federal dollars and a shared cost.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and its partners are in the feasibility phase of deepening Tampa Harbor. This project will impact the area in several ways. It will stimulate economic growth, ensure safe, reliable transportation, and provide material to create preservation, conservation, and recreational projects in the region.
“Port Tampa Bay is Florida’s largest port in cargo tonnage and land area. It serves as a major cruise port and services a diverse mix of bulk, break-bulk, container commodities, and energy products that serve central Florida. The port contributes over $17 billion in economic impact supporting more than 85,000 jobs. The Tampa Harbor Federal Navigation Channel was last deepened in the 1980s.
The project itself consists of a channel from the Gulf of Mexico to port of Tampa and Tampa. Its features include the entrance channel from the Gulf of Mexico to Hillsborough Bay. At Hillsborough Bay, the channel splits into two legs, with one continuing west to Port Tampa and the other east to Gadsden Point. The west channel continues to Port Tampa and ends in a turning basin. The west channel to Gadsden Point continues north through Hillsborough Bay towards the upper channels and includes Alafia River and Big Bend. The project depth varies from 45 feet in the entrance channel at the Egmont Bar Channel to 32 feet in the Alafia River. The length of the project is about 67 miles including 3.6 miles in the Alafia River. Port Tampa Bay has more cargo tonnage than all other Florida ports combined.” (Report Summary – Tampa Harbor Navigation Improvement Study.)
I say all this so that a picture forms in your head of the scope and scale of the proposed work, as well as how much and how quickly Tampa has grown in the past several years and the future potential for continued growth in this region.
Now, ask yourself how this growth has and will impact the region’s cultural and natural resources.
Let’s first look at the area’s rich cultural history.
The Port of Tampa Bay has a rich cultural history that started with the area’s indigenous people around 3000 years ago. The location was valuable for trade and rich in natural resources.
The territory then passed through the hands of the Spanish multiple times, acquired by the British, and eventually, became part of the United States.
Fast-forward to the 19th century, when the merchants of the Tampa Bay area lobbied for federal support to deepen the harbor’s channels. In 1905, the U.S. Congress authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the channel to a depth of 20-feet.
This was the first recorded dredging by USACE and the first time local, state, federal, and private industry worked together to build the Port of Tampa Bay.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers works with their local, state, federal, and nongovernmental partners to realize projects that deliver the most economically progressive outcomes within cultural and environmental guidelines. We leverage strategies within our projects that aim to create adaptable and sustainable systems,” says USACE Ecologist and Navigation Team Lead, Aubree Hershorin, –
Projects like the deepening of Tampa Harbor go through a rigorous planning process and before they can be authorized. The process includes five distinct phases:
2. Alternative Formulation and Analysis,
3. a Feasibility -Level analysis,
4. Final Report Release- State and Agency Review, and
5. The Chiefs Report.
USACE also implements a six-step planning process in the following order:
1. Identify problems, opportunities, objectives, constraints,
2. Inventory and forecast conditions,
3. Formulate alternative plans,
4. Evaluate alternative plans,
5. Compare alternative plans, and
6. Select a plan.
Fact Sheet: Tampa Harbor Federal Navigation Improvement Study (oclc.org)
Let us remember the Principles and Guidelines identified in the Water Resources Act 1986 that established four accounts for evaluating alternatives: the National Economic Development account, the Regional Economic Development account, Other Social Effects, and Environmental Quality. Benefits derived from all four of these accounts are considered when choosing a plan.
There are meetings with partners and stakeholders, discussions with the public, and the opportunity for the public to comment on the project, all before a single grain of sediment is placed.
These processes are our way of tackling challenging questions and finding solutions that provide a positive impact. Past projects have helped the USACE and its partners discover how dredge material is a valuable resource and how it can be repurposed.
The deepening of the channel will result in the dredging of an estimated amount of up to 23-million cubic yards, equivalent to 7,034 Olympic swimming pools filled with sediment Now that’s a lot of material!
“Knowing the potential amount and type of sediment helps the team determine the placement site and its benefits to that particular site. For example, some of the study’s sediment may be used to restore Egmont Key. The restoration of the island will benefit shorebird and sea turtle habitat.” Says Hershorin
One unintended benefit of using dredged material at Dredge Material Management Areas (DMMA) 2-D and 3-D is the valuable shorebird habitat they provide. The Jacksonville District built the sites between 1978 and 1982 while deepening Tampa Harbor to 43 feet. The islands have provided the Port of Tampa Bay and USACE with places to store dredge material. Dependent on dredge material cycles on either island, it also provides habit for shorebird populations to flourish that is protected from human disturbances.
A small team of engineers apply sunscreen, put on life vests, and gather their backpacks to board a small craft provided by our partners, the National Audubon Society. The captain of the vessel, Jeff Liechty, is also a National Audubon coastal biologist at Florida Coastal Sanctuaries and our guide through the site. At high noon, the crew took off from the boat dock across the Bay and made their way to DMMA 3-D. Along the way, I could see how prolific the bird population is: pelicans, roseate spoonbills, and oystercatchers are just a few of the many bird species that have found a haven on the resource-rich island .
Upon reaching the island, birds lined the shore and circled in the air above. As we carefully navigated our way up the hill to inspect the site following Liechty’s path, nestling birds were tucked away in their hiding spots nearby.
Liechty says that Audubon, USACE, and the Port of Tampa Bay have maintained a longstanding partnership. The collaboration serves the dual purpose of efficiently managing dredged material to ensure efficient navigation depths for vessels accessing the port, while simultaneously providing bird habitat.
“DMMA 3-D island is a special place in the bay. It provides a variety of habitats including uplands for nesting, interior lagoons, and foraging areas. The island also provides refuge from the disturbances found on our beaches,“ Liechty emphasized.
Because of collaborative efforts between USACE, Audubon, Port Tampa Bay, and the partners that are part of the Tampa Bay Migratory Bird Protection Committee, biologists and volunteers have been able to monitor and collect data on the birds that use DMMA 3-D.
Liechty says tens of thousands of birds come to the island throughout the year.
As USACE and its partners work through the improvement study, they have many factors to consider. There are adverse and beneficial effects on cultural and natural resources. There’s sea level rise, wind, tidal changes, boat wakes, and the weight and depth of cargo and cruise ships. The variables that this team must consider and work through are numerous.
Armed with data collected over time, an information-rich report, an environmental impact statement, and a steady movement to incorporate nature-based solutions, the Tampa Harbor Navigation Improvement Study makes its way through the processes needed to make the best decisions not only for this moment but for the next 50 years. Right now, the team has reached the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) milestone.
Since you, the reader, made it this far, you might wonder if there are adverse impacts that could result from this type of project such as increased boat traffic, the disruption of the wildlife population and recreational activities. Why not leave the channel the way it is? What is the cost of doing nothing? The reason is that Tampa is growing and the demand for goods by consumers is still going strong by any means, whether improvements to the infrastructure take place or not.
According to Mckinsey & Company’s article, “The Consumer sector in 2030: Trends and questions to consider”, Dec.1, 2015, “Globally,middle-class spending will almost triple by 2030 and that more than 75 percent of the world’s population will own a mobile phone .”
Not moving forward and planning for a sustainable future leaves the area and its resources at risk.
Hershorin says, “This plan is unique. While some of the dredging components of the Tentatively Selected Plan are traditional, we were able to incorporate smarter methods for deepening while avoiding impacts to hardbottom environment and opportunities for beneficially using the dredged materials to create numerous types of habitat in several locations in Tampa Bay.”
The Tampa Harbor Navigation Improvement Study aligns itself with a nature-based approach in that it will reduce our environmental footprint by enhancing sustainability, conserving fuel, and repurposing precious resources. USACE is moving toward delivering economic, environmental, and social benefits through collaboration with our local, state and federal partners.
The cost of investing in our future and the channel’s future is priceless.
Many Thanks to: Aubree Hershorin, Bryan Merrill, Graceann Sparkman, and Jon Simon Suarez
Two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District Planning Division team members participated in the 2023 State of the Los Angeles River Watershed Symposium Sept. 19 at the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles.
The symposium brought together governments, non-profit organizations, community-based organizations, scientists, academics, agency representatives, land managers and other interested parties to discuss emerging concerns about the Los Angeles River in the era of climate change.
Megan Whalen, a watershed program manager with the LA District and urban waters ambassador, was one of four panelists who participated in a breakout session titled, “Weathering Change,” in which audience participants discussed climate impacts on communities and strategies for resilience.
“I think the real emphasis today was on environmental justice and working with communities that will be even more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” she said. “Severe weather has the ability to impact all communities; however, vulnerable communities are going to be even more at risk.”
Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin or income regarding the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies with no group bearing a disproportionate burden of environmental harms and risks.
For the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, environmental justice and disproportionate impacts to Justice40 communities are considered throughout the agency’s Civil Works programs and in all phases of project planning and decision-making.
Environmental justice is when everyone receives the same degree of protection and equal access to Civil Works programs and services to achieve a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.
“So, in being here today, we not only are able to represent what we do,” Whalen said, “but also (represent) the partnership that we have with the Council of Watershed Health.”
A poster session followed the evening reception at the symposium, where attendees were able to walk around and discuss various collaborating agencies’ posters.
Manya Singh, a study manager for environmental justice initiatives with the LA District, presented her environmental justice and engineering with nature posters and discussed the Corps’ goals in achieving Justice40, as well as the Corps work with engineering with nature.
“We're here today to talk about these two initiatives and to indicate to our friends and partners these are two initiatives that we are looking for new connections and new opportunities to work on,” Singh said.
Singh’s environmental justice poster shows a recently developed map of the district’s area of operations, with various overlays that highlighted the environmental justice outreach conducted in local communities in 2023.
Singh’s engineering with nature poster was highlighted in the symposium’s pamphlet.
“I did spend a lot of time on this poster,” Singh said. “Engineering with nature is an initiative out of (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Research and Development Center), and, previously, the San Francisco District was considered the proving ground … recently the whole (South Pacific Division) has become a proving ground. That includes the Los Angeles District, so we are trying to let our communities know we are really pushing the engineering with nature approach. This poster highlights the four elements of the approach.”
For more information about the Corps’ environmental justice and engineering with nature initiatives, visit:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District has awarded a $17.6 million contract to Mark Cerrone, Inc. to install approximately 23-acres of engineered non-permeable caps at the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program, Seaway Site, Tonawanda, N.Y.
Construction of the engineered cap, designed to limit exposure at the site, will occur within areas A, B, and C, and is scheduled to begin no later than spring 2024.
The process will not require the removal of contaminated materials, but does include grading of the access roads, conducting surface water calculations and stormwater management, gas monitoring (including radon and decomposition gases), erosion resistance model and erosion control materials specifications, slope stability analysis, venting system design, planting of vegetative soils to limit erosion, and installation of composite engineered cap materials.
Protecting human health and the environment remains the Corps of Engineers’ highest priority. Throughout the process updates and timelines will be communicated frequently to ensure the public remains informed.
Additional information regarding the Seaway Site can be found on the project website at https://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/Missions/HTRW/FUSRAP/Seaway-Site/.
The Seaway Site is within the 100-acre Seaway Industrial Park located along River Road in the Town of Tonawanda, Erie County, New York, north of Buffalo and just south of the Niagara River. The site was operated as a landfill by Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI) through 1993. After ceasing operations, most of the landfill was capped by BFI in accordance with the requirements of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).
The Seaway Site was created when materials containing low levels of residual radioactivity were disposed of on the adjacent federal government leased Ashland 1 property. These radioactive residues were the result of activities conducted at the former Linde Site to support the nation’s nuclear weapons program. This material was later relocated by Ashland Oil to the Seaway Site Areas A, B, C, and the Ashland 2 Site.
Under FUSRAP, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is cleaning up sites with contamination resulting from the Nation’s early atomic energy program. FUSRAP was initiated in 1974 to identify, investigate and, if necessary, clean up or control sites throughout the United States contaminated as a result of Manhattan Engineer District (MED) or early Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) activities. Both the MED and the AEC were predecessors of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Please email email@example.com or call 800-833-6390 (Option 4) for additional information. The Administrative Record for the Seaway Site contains documents that support the CERCLA process for the site. It is available for review electronically on the project website https://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/Missions/HTRW/FUSRAP/Seaway-Site/.
The Buffalo District delivers world class engineering solutions to the Great Lakes Region, the Army and the Nation in order to ensure national security, environmental sustainability, water resource management, and emergency assistance during peace and war.