Selecting a Destination for Dredged Material

“Facts About Selecting a Destination for Dredged Material” describes the considerations necessary to determine how to use or dispose of dredged material.

One of the first areas of concern when executing a dredging project is always “what will be done with the dredged material?” Every dredging project should take into consideration the final use or destination of the sediment that will be excavated. Failing to examine this prior to starting a project has led to many conflicts, protests and legal delays.
The necessity for determining the destination of dredged material entails first of all the premise of “do no harm”. Besides that a few guidelines are:

  • look for disposal areas within reasonable distance of the dredging site,
  • assess the characteristics of the dredged material,
  • choose a few potential disposal sites,
  • assess potential impacts of the proposed material at each site and the acceptability of these impacts, and
  • compare the probable impacts at the various sites.

The placement and/or disposal of dredged material is regulated on local, regional and international levels. An important recent development has been the change in approach to dredged material which in the past was classified as a waste. This caused delays for dredging projects for port maintenance, navigation channels, flood protection and other essential dredging operations.
Nowadays authorities recognize that most dredged material is clean and can be used as a resource. This is an important change in policy and essentially opens opportunities to use clean dredged materials for infrastructure improvements.
In general, dredged material destinations can be split into roughly three options:

  • useful destinations and applications for clean material;
  • open-water placement in the ocean, estuarine waters, lakes and rivers, all of which are highly regulated and restricted;
  • confined disposal, in a structure which isolates the dredged material from the surroundings, for example, within a diked area either in water or on land, when no other option is available.

In all cases, consultants, government officials and community representatives need to be included in discussions about dredged material placement and it is crucial that people living near a dredging site and the placement site be completely informed.

“Facts About Selecting a Destination for Dredged Material” answers essential questions such as:

  • Why consider the destination of dredged material?
  • When should the destination of dredged material be considered?
  • Do different types of dredged material require different solutions?
  • Do types of dredged material differ from project to project?
  • What are some guidelines for the selection of a destination for dredged material?
  • What are the possible destinations for dredged material?
  • When is the use option suitable?
  • When is open-water placement suitable?
  • When is confined disposal suitable?
  • Can and should dredged material be treated?
  • What is the most direct method for dredged material placement?
  • Who is responsible for finding a destination for dredged material?
  • How are the placement and/or disposal of dredged material regulated?
  • What is Natura 2000 and does it impact the destination of dredged material?
  • What is a “flexible disposal strategy”?
  • Are there low-cost solutions for determining the destination of dredged material?