Dr. Burton Suedel of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center accepted the 2017 Western Dredging Association’s Environmental Excellence Award for Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change on behalf of project team members June 28. Jeffrey Corbino, New Orleans District, served as project manager for the team, which included Suedel as technical lead, along with Dr. Jacob Berkowitz and Dr. Christy Foran of ERDC’s Environmental Laboratory. Additional project partners came from Weeks Marine Inc., Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co., and Mike Hooks, Inc.
‟The award recognized the team’s efforts associated with strategic placement of dredged material on the Atchafalaya River in Louisiana,” Suedel said. ‟Placement of the dredged material allowed nature to self-form Horseshoe Bend Island downstream,” he said. ‟ERDC developed metrics to capture the wide array of benefits the island provides, both for local communities and the broader ecosystem; these metrics can be used to justify the application of this island-building approach at other riverine sites nationwide,” he said.
The team quantified the following services based on available data, improvement of the environment or ecosystem sustainability, carbon sequestration, nutrient sequestration, research opportunities, and navigation support and maintenance. ‟These services capture a broad array of potential benefits associated with Engineering with Nature initiatives,” said Suedel. EWN is the intentional alignment of natural and engineering processes to efficiently and sustainably deliver economic, environmental, and social benefits through collaborative processes.
‟The improvement of the environment, such as the creation of four distinct wetland habitats, is a key service created on the island,” he said. ‟The benefit is that the island now supports 81 plant species and 23 animal species, including nine species of wading birds; some of these birds are using the island as a rookery, which means the birds will breed here—this is significant from a conservation perspective,” he said. ‟It was also estimated that Horseshoe Bend Island will sequester an average of 5,220 kg of carbon per year, assuming that this section of the river remains relatively stable well into the future. The obvious benefit is that the island will remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”
WEDA is one of three member organizations of the World Organization of Dredging Associations. The other members are the Central Dredging Association and the Eastern Dredging Association. The WEDA region covers North, Central and South America. ‟The goals of the three-member organizations are shared and include exchange of dredging, navigation and marine engineering and construction knowledge and solutions to marine environmental challenges,” said Suedel. ‟The team ultimately identified and quantified climate change, navigation, environmental and economic benefits realized from the enhanced coastal Louisiana landscape project.”