- On 18th November 2016
- In Dredging, Ecology
- By William
On the 17th November, Will represented Exo Environmental at the triennial ‘Habitat Creation’ conference, focussing on the ‘Beneficial Use of Dredged Material’ (BUDM) hosted by ABPmer.
Given Exo Environmental’s specialism and experience in Beneficial use of dredged material it was a particularly relevant day and great to see such a good turn out from a variety of stakeholders ranging from port authorities, to dredging contractors, to government bodies and many more interested parties.
BUDM is becoming an increasingly important component of dredging projects for a number of reasons, not limited to; conforming to legislative requirements such as the Waste Framework Directive, cost savings through the reduction of transport and disposal costs and environmental benefits such as habitat creation.
Neatly structured into a series of talks, firstly contextualising BUDM, followed up with examples, both successful and less successful, more frustrating(!) and concluding with future targets, it provided an extensive overview of the ever growing field of BUDM.
Whilst overall encouragingly optimistic, a few success factors (the positive spin on obstacles, which if overcome, will allow BUDM to flourish) were identified throughout the day and will provide focus for specialists in this field to tackle in the near future. From the day, three areas stand out:
The creation of a centralised body dedicated to BUDM that can set out and clarify policy and terminology, behind which, everyone can get behind would provide a common pillar of strength to the sector. In addition to this, the development of a database of source (dredging) and sink (restoration) sites would allow the matching of projects based on conditions such as location and environment, thereby facilitating BUDM opportunities.
Applying a level of proportionality to dredging and BUDM works and their potential impacts would reduce the legislative burden to the more common, smaller-scale projects. Currently, the economic burden associated with licensing and permitting for example, results in many of these smaller scale projects resorting to disposal either at sea or in landfill with many learning opportunities being missed. Also, projects have failed due to excessive cost and subsequently facilities such as births, marinas, dock, and waterways are silting up.
Costing was raised as a success factor for two reasons. Firstly and in association with disproportionality, is the cost of the licensing and permitting process, including analysis of the samples required to ensure that BUDM activities conform to important legislative and environmental requirements such as physical and chemical composition. The certification of a network of laboratories capable of the required standard of analysis, as is the case with terrestrial sample analysis, would certainly result in a more competitive market. (Currently only Cefas and NLS are certified).
The second issue regarding costing relates to the valorisation of our environment. In recent years, quantifying the economic contribution of our natural environment through ecosystem services such as coastal flood defence, tourism and health benefits has become an important tool in promoting conservation. Whilst this technique is already being applied to BUDM projects, the accumulation of data and information for all projects, both successful and not, large and small would allow us to produce a more accurate cost-benefit analysis of BUDM, providing the economic incentive to support these works in future.
Whilst these three factors repeatedly arose throughout the day, one more aspect formed the basis of the movement and the day; positivity. BUDM is a no brainer providing it is done sensibly. Dredging will always be required and dredged sediment has so far been a hugely undervalued resource. A change in mind-sets that allows policy makers, licensers, consultants, contractors and clients to realize this resource will lead to a bright future in the field of beneficial use of dredged material.