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After 40 years, the Western Dredging Association is continuing its mission of providing technical papers, exchanging of ideas and meeting places for the dredging industry in the Americas

By Judith Powers

The Western Dredging Association (WEDA)’s mission is to promote the exchange of knowledge in fields related to dredging, navigation, hydrographic surveying and marine engineering and construction, and to provide the opportunity for dredging professionals to meet and exchange knowledge on all topics.

The organization is an offshoot of groups established in 1967 by Mortimer J. Richardson, a civil engineer who worked in mining, who had the concept of an organization that would unite dredging professionals around the world. He established two organizations – the World Dredging Association (WODA), which held regional meetings for dredging professionals; and the World Dredging Conference Association (WODCON), to produce dredging trade shows around the world. He retained ownership of the organizations and produced all the meetings and shows.

Between 1967 and 1976, Richardson produced eight World Dredging Conferences in five countries, and established regular, well-attended meetings of WODA, which were attended by 120 to 140 participants. These meetings and conferences formed the relationships through which the next generation of organizations were formed.

The group re-organizes

In 1978, dredging contractors in Europe withdrew from WODA and WODCON and formed the Central Dredging Association (CEDA). Dredging contractors in the United States also re-formed, as the non-profit organization, WEDA. Its first meeting, WEDA I, in September 1979, drew 140 dredging professionals from Canada, Mexico and the United States. Officers and board members were elected, and included representatives from all three countries. C.G. Benckhuysen of Public Works Canada was elected to the board and took over as organizer of WODCON IX in Vancouver, B.C. in 1980.

“[WEDA] is a good place to be because it’s all about dredging.”
– Norman Grant, Normrock Industries

At the Vancouver meeting, attended by dredging professionals from around the globe, the Eastern Dredging Association (EADA) was formed, and the three groups were united under the umbrella organization WODA. Its purpose was to produce a World Dredging Conference every three years, in alternating parts of the world.

In 1991, Craig Vogt, a scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, joined WEDA, and in 1994 established the WEDA Environmental Commission to raise awareness of environmental issues associated with dredging and disposal, and to work toward getting dredging projects done in a cost-effective and timely manner while meeting environmental objectives. The environmental commission presents several awards for environmental projects at every annual meeting.

In the 1990s, contractors were seeing an increased number of injuries and fatalities on dredging jobs, and began assessing their operations and seeking changes in protocol to increase safety. Thomas Verna, from the Chief of Engineers office at USACE Headquarters in Washington, D.C., established the WEDA Safety Commission, which promotes papers on safety at every meeting, convenes separately in conjunction with annual meetings and presents several safety awards annually to companies who have outstanding safety records.

A major raison d’etre of WEDA is the presentation and publication of technical papers, and the group produces printed proceedings for each meeting. The WEDA Journal of Dredging is published several times a year and presents peer-reviewed technical papers on dredging. It has been in publication since 1999, and is distributed to every member.

Changing directions again

At the 2014 annual meeting in Toronto, the board of directors approved a new set of by-laws and parceled out organizational duties to board members according to their expertise.

Officers, board members and a new executive director were approved at that meeting.

The current executive director is Tom Cappellino. President and chair of the board of directors is Marcel Hermans of the Port of Portland. Vice president is Alan Alcorn of Moffatt & Nichol, treasurer is Matthew Binsfeld of J.F. Brennan, Co., Inc., and secretary is Carol Shobrook of JT Cleary. There are 20 board members from industry and government positions, hailing from countries throughout the Americas. Representing Canada on the board is Jos Clement, director of technical services for CEDA Dredging & Fluid Management in Edmonton, Alta.

WEDA members receive reduced registration rates for all events put on by the three WODA organizations, complimentary subscriptions to the journals International Dredging Review and Terra et Aqua, reduced subscriptions to other journals, newsletters with information about the dredging communities, access to other WEDA members, ability to participate in activities and committees focusing on dredging issues such as safety and the environment, ability to help recognize individuals and organizations for outstanding achievements in dredging and marine construction and the opportunity to support students interested in pursuing a career in dredging and marine engineering.

On the organization’s website – www.westerndredging.org – are the proceedings of all conferences, notably the chapter meetings, where papers generally appear within a day of the meeting. The website was produced by WEDA members, who created a modern, clean, interactive site, easy to use and providing all necessary information.

Benefits for Canada

WEDA member Norman Grant, president of Canadian dredge manufacturer Normrock Industries, says membership “gets us to meet other people [in dredging], which is useful in the trade. It’s a good place to be because it’s all about dredging.”

Grant has been a member for 12 years and exhibits at many of the conferences.

Chapters now include the Eastern, Gulf, Midwest and Pacific Chapters in the U.S., the Central America Chapter and the South America Chapter.

In 2018, the Dredging Summit & Expo – Navigating the Future in Dredging – will be held in Norfolk, Va., June 25 through 28. A call for papers is out for that event and all are invited to submit abstracts. The deadline is January 15, 2018, and full details are on the WEDA website.

The Midwest Chapter meeting will be held in Toledo, Ohio, March 13 to 15. The remaining chapters hold their meetings in the fall, and full information on these will appear on the website in mid-2018. Proceedings of 2017 meetings are now on the site and can be viewed by all.

After the annual Dredging Summit & Expo in Vancouver, B.C. this June, Cappellino said, “After a successful and well-attended event, WEDA has expanded its outreach in Canada and now has 67 Canadian members representing 56 companies. We experienced an excellent turnout from our Canadian members and affiliates.”

WEDA is the dominant professional organization for dredging professionals in the Americas, and its biggest achievement is to have built a network of valuable connections among its members, and promoting the exchange of knowledge in fields related to dredging, navigation, marine engineering and construction, says Cappellino.

“We have accomplished that by hosting or co-sponsoring national and international technical conferences, seminars and symposia, including publication and dissemination of the proceedings,” he said.

WEDA’s goals for the future are encompassed by its stated mission, which is to focus on increasing the benefits and overall value offered to the members, to build a stronger organization and to increase its presence as a forum for dredging professionals throughout the Americas.

“We encourage Canadian companies and individuals to join WEDA and help us achieve our missions and goals,” said Cappellino. 

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.