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Dredging Is An American Success Story

November 10, 2023   The Waterways Journal

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After looking at climate and temperature data for October, scientists now say 2023 is shaping up to be the hottest year on record. One effect of those higher temperatures has been record droughts affecting river traffic across all major commercial arteries around the world.


For the Mississippi River, that means we can look forward to more dredging as part of the new climate normal for the foreseeable future. While the Corps spends $4-5 million on dredging in a “typical” year, it spent about $8 million last year and is likely to spend more than $20 million this year, according to a Corps spokesman.


That’s one reason why a recently released report on the nation’s private dredging fleet by Mike Hooks LLC is so timely and welcome. While the Corps is recapitalizing its dredging fleet, that process is slow as it has to go through Congress. The lengthy appropriations and approval process can stretch out into years. This past August, the Corps announced that Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Panama City, Fla., was chosen to design and construct a new medium-class hopper dredge, scheduled for delivery in 2027.


While the Jones Act protects the American maritime industry, including dredging, from foreign competition in most markets, the Mike Hooks report shows that domestic competition within that market is alive and well.


According to the report, the winning bid for federal dredging contracts came in lower than the independent government estimate 72 percent of the time, saving taxpayers millions. In total, 59 projects came in under budget by more than 10 percent less than estimated, with 27 projects costing 25 percent less than expected and 15 projects achieving budget reductions of more than 40 percent. These statistics show that healthy competition is driving innovation and cost savings.


A lot of the historic surge in spending powered by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is going toward dredging. Fortunately, the Mike Hooks report shows a healthy dredging industry that is doing its own fleet recapitalization more quickly and is well placed to aid the Corps in its public mission of keeping inland and coastal waterways open and safe. It’s also ensuring that American taxpayers get the most bang for their buck.