The environment and its protection are always priorities during dredging projects, but dredging can also be a pro-active tool to improve the environment.

Dredging is not a “one size fits all” activity. Each project must be carefully weighed and examined in the context of the environment in which it is taking place. Although dredging operations can cause disruptions, the community and project owner must determine:

  • Are these impacts long-term or temporary?
  • Do the benefits, economic and social, of the final project outweigh certain environmental impacts?
  • Can impacts can be mitigated by sound dredging practices?

Environmental impacts

Environmental impacts of a dredging project almost always arouse interest, discussion and often controversy amongst stakeholders, contractors and project owners. The major dredging contractors make significant investments in research to work responsibly in environmentally sensitive marine environments. Environmental engineers at the companies continue to evaluate sediments as well as the impacts of turbidity and sound on marine flora and fauna. Monitoring before, during and after a project are often pre-requisites.

Building with Nature

Additionally, concepts such as Building with Nature provide knowledge on how to improve the environment that can be applied worldwide. The preservation of ecosystems and reuse of clean sediments are an integral part of the design of a dredging project.

Remediation dredging

Remediation dredging is work in which contaminated industrial sites are cleaned and often transformed into healthy living and working locations. Restoring these so-called ‘brownfields’ into usable urban properties is another way in which dredging contributes to the improvement of the environment.

Balancing environment & economics

Finding a balance between economic and environmental values is crucial to the acceptance and therefore success of a project. Ecosystems Services is a recent effort to evaluate the cost/ benefits of a project.

Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services is a method which weighs all known benefits of a project against all known impacts that may come from implementing the project. The services of an ecosystem have been assigned to four general categories. An ecosystem can:
a. Provide for the production of food and water;
b. Regulate, that is, control climate changes and disease;
c. Support nutrient cycles and crop pollination; and
d. Contribute to culture, for instance, giving spiritual and recreational benefits.

These services have a monetary value and are balanced against the economic value that a project may contribute to the general welfare of a community or country.

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