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The Western Dredging Associations (WEDA) during its annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada proudly presented Environmental Excellence Awards in three categories: Environmental Dredging, Navigation Dredging, and Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change.

The 2017 WEDA Environmental Excellence Award for Environmental Dredging was presented to the project team for Onondaga Lake Restoration in Syracuse, New York, USA. Project team members are Honeywell International; Parsons Corporation; Anchor QEA, LLC; O’Brien & Gere; Geosyntec Consultants; Sevenson Environmental Services; Infrastructure Alternatives, Inc.; de Maximis, Inc.; and Brown & Sanford Consultants.

The Onondaga Lake project is one of the largest restoration projects in North America. The multi-year project was conceived by some premier experts from academia, industry and the public, and involved several decades of planning, investigations, engineering and construction, before coming to fruition.

Some 2.2 million cubic yards (MCY) of dredged material were removed from the lake bottom and pumped over 4 miles to an upland sediment consolidation area (SCA). The material was then placed within 979 geotextile tubes, stacked up to 5 layers high, over the 55-acre SCA.  Approximately 475 acres of cap was then placed over the lake bottom including placement of 1.6 MCY hydraulically, and another 1.5 MCY mechanically. Specialized amendments (over 14 million pounds of granular activated carbon, and 14,000 tons of siderite) were incorporated into the cap layers to provide additional sorption and retardation properties.  Approximately 37 acres of the lake bottom received targeted habitat restoration materials and planting. These innovations resulted in technological advancements that were once thought to be unattainable. They combine innovative dredging and capping designs with long-term habitat restoration initiatives, which have led to an optimized, environmentally protective solution, with great economic benefits to the lake and surrounding communities.

WEDA’s 2017 Environmental Excellence Award for Navigation Dredging was presented to the project team for the Barbours Cut Expansion/San Jacinto Restoration Houston Ship Channel and San Jacinto River, La Porte, Texas, USA. Project team members are Enterprise Products, LLC; Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; Texas Historical Commission; Atkins; Weeks Marine, Inc. and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District.

The root objective of the project was to expand a dock facility in Barbours Cut along the Houston Ship Channel (HSC). The dredging phase called for the removal of 475,000 cubic yards of material to connect the expanded slip with the existing federal channel. Dredged material was transported about 9.5 miles inbound along the HSC to the San Jacinto Battleground (BU) site.   

San Jacinto marsh is a 350-acre tidal wetland complex, which lies at the confluence of the Houston Shipping Channel (HSC) and San Jacinto River. The site is designated as a National Historical Landmark and is preserved by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) as the location of the Battle of San Jacinto, which is credited as the pivotal event that won Texas independence from Mexico in 1836. It also stands as one of the few functioning tidal wetlands among the heavy industries of Houston. Over time, the site has undergone a series of changes associated with coastal erosion and subsidence.

The project faced a host of challenges including scheduling, transport distance, material type, and abundant cultural resources. The total project work was a navigational dredging project included an expanded barge slip and infrastructure to accommodate expanded capacity at a mid-stream energy product facility. At the same time the fill project successfully restored 150 acres of the inter-tidal San Jacinto marsh to a historically accurate condition, helping visitors visualize the events that took place during the 1836 battle, and at the same time created an inter-tidal habitat that promotes native marsh grass growth and is tolerant of varying water elevations and salinity levels.

WEDA’s 2017 Environmental Excellence Award for Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change was presented to the Project Team for Strategically Placing Dredged Material Enhancing Horseshoe Bend Island, Horseshoe Bend Island Project in the Atchafalaya River, Louisiana, USA. Project team members are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research & Development Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District; Weeks Marine, Inc.; Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company; and Mike Hooks, Inc. During the 1990s, placement of shoal material dredged from Horseshoe Bend occurred at eight wetland development sites located along the river's banklines adjacent to the channel. Capacity of these placement sites was nearly exhausted by 1999. Beginning in 2002, strategic placement of the sediment dredged from Horseshoe Bend occurred at the mid-river open water placement area. Between 0.5 to 1.8 million cubic yards of sediment were placed every 1 to 3 years. This influenced and contributed to the development of an approximately 35 hectare island mid-river. The initial goal was to improve the understanding of how and why the island was formed over a 12 year period.  Climate change, navigation, environmental, and economic benefits were identified and quantified to determine the multiple benefits being realized for enhancing the coastal Louisiana landscape with a focus upon carbon sequestration in the created habitat and CO2 reductions in emissions.

As the USACE increases its use of Engineering with Nature (EWN) principles and practices nationwide, capturing the full array of benefits of reductions in carbon released to the atmosphere as well as the environmental, economic, and social benefits generated by these novel solutions becomes critical. The USACE Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) developed metrics to capture the benefits of strategically placing dredged material in a river system to allow nature to self-form an island downstream that is producing a wide array of benefits both for local communities and the broader ecosystem at large. These metrics can be used to justify the application of this island-building approach at other riverine sites nationwide. 

For further information contact on any of these projects: Thomas P. Cappellino, WEDA Executive Director ( or Craig Vogt (

Photos of the Awards Presentation are available upon request.