Beneficial Uses of Dredged Material

When feasible, dredged material can be used as a resource rather than treated as a waste product. Beneficial uses can include habitat creation and restoration, beach nourishment, landfill cover, and land site remediation. With proper funding and planning, and a willingness of environmental agencies and the public, beneficial use of dredged material in the harbor can have a significant impact on improving the condition of the harbor while also alleviating existing demand for development and use of new disposal sites.


Some of the District's efforts related to beneficial uses of dredged material include: 


Habitat Creation and Restoration

The New York District (NYD) is one of the primary entities responsible for the creation, enhancement and restoration of aquatic, wetland and upland habitat in the region. Currently, the NYD has watershed-level ecosystem restoration projects underway for Jamaica Bay and several other areas within the Harbor. The DMMP provides an excellent opportunity to expand this restoration. Implementation of the beneficial use of dredged material, carefully considered, can provide opportunities for habitat and water quality restoration in areas where restoration may not be possible without the use of dredged material. Further, the beneficial use of dredged material is one of the primary goals of the Harbor Estuary Program. Habitat creation, enhancement, and restoration with dredged material MUST result in net environmental improvement, or it cannot be considered a "beneficial" use. In some cases, this will involve a "habitat tradeoff", that is, the elimination of an existing habitat to replace it with a restored habitat that has suffered greater losses and/or is more valuable to the local ecosystem. This loss of degraded or relatively low value habitat would be justified only if the replacement habitat provides a greater ecological function (e.g., provide more fish and wildlife habitat, provide greater sediment/toxic retention, provide enhanced water quality or water circulation, etc.).

Several types of beneficial use applications for New York/New Jersey Harbor are described in this report. The applications being considered for the Harbor are:

1.     Upland habitat.

2.     Borrow pit restoration.

3.     Treatment wetlands.

4.     Habitat wetlands.

5.     Recontouring for shallow water habitat.

6.     Filling dead-end basins.

7.     Artificial reefs.

8.     Bird habitat.

9.     Shellfish habitat.

10.  Mud flats.

11.  Oyster reefs.

12.  SAV habitat.

Several steps must be accomplished in order to implement these applications. Some are application-sensitive; most are generally applicable. For example, almost all of these applications would require a demonstration project before a full-scale implementation plan could be accomplished. A few, such as shellfish habitat creation, would require up-front research and development. All would require a site impact evaluation for an individual project, which would either be USACE funded if it were part of a USACE project (navigation and/or restoration) or funded by an applicant as part of a Section 404 application. In summary, the beneficial use of dredged material for habitat creation, enhancement and restoration is an integral part of the solution for dredging in New York/New Jersey Harbor. If managed properly and funded adequately, beneficial use offers possibly the best hope for environmentally beneficial consumptive placement for dredged material among the various alternatives proposed under the DMMP. For the final DMMP report, the New York District intends to have identified the conceptual practicality, and likely areas or actual sites, for options mentioned above. This includes identification of cost estimates, and volume and type of dredged material required. Several of these options, however, may not be pursued by the NYD, as their practicality and/or costs may not lend themselves to further development.

Land Site Remediation

In early 1997, the New York District went to the public with general ideas and information about how and where to place sediment dredged from the silted-in harbor. We received many useful comments from various sources and have been working to incorporate those ideas into our dredged material management plan. One comment that many people had was that dredged material should be used in a beneficial way wherever possible, such as capping material for landfills or abandoned contaminated industrial sites known as "brownfields."

Private companies have been doing just that. An abandoned landfill in Elizabeth, NJ is being capped with dredge material after which the site will become a parking lot for the Jersey Gardens Mall. The site is permitted by the state of New Jersey to accept up to 1.3 million cubic yards of stabilized dredged material for use as structural fill under the mall's parking lot and for road embankments.

Placement of stabilized dredged material for use as fill for a parking lot in Elizabeth, NJ

A brownfield remediation site headed by ECDC at the Seaboard Site in Kearny, NJ has recently begun. The waterfront site is a 165-acre industrial brownfield. Dredged material will be stabilized at Port Newark to make structural fill for site remediation. OENJ Corporation--GreatLakes Dredge and Dock Co. is planning another project at the OENJ-Bayonne site in Bayonne, New Jersey. This project is currently under permit review. The plan for the waterfront site is to cap a 69-acre abandoned landfill and an 87-acre industrial brownfield in the Constable Hook section of the city. Dredged material will be stabilized to make fill material to cap the site. Current plans are to build two golf courses on top of the cap.

The New York District would like to do all it can to support and facilitate the beneficial use of dredged material such as those described above. One way is to provide for a steadier stream of stabilized material by building a re-handling facility. In order to process material more economically and transfer large volumes of dredged material for use on sanitary landfills or brownfields, a regional facility will be required for storage, de-watering or mixing. Transfer and handling are often a large part of the cost to implement the types of uses described above. Currently, we are developing a generic construction design for a re-handling facility to have available for use whenever an appropriate site for construction in the NY/NJ area is proposed.

To assist private landowners and local governments remediate brownfields or contaminated landfills, a users manual is being developed. The manual will be technical in nature explaining the steps necessary to cap a site using dredged material and prepare it for development. For more information please email project manager Michael Millard or call 917-790-8206.