Framework for Dredged Material Management
Potential environmental impacts resulting from dredged material disposal may be
physical, chemical, or biological in nature. Because many of the waterways are located in
industrial and urban areas, sediments often contain contaminants from these sources.
Unless properly managed, dredging and disposal of contaminated sediment can adversely
affect water quality and aquatic or terrestrial organisms. Sound planning, design, and
management of projects are essential if dredged material disposal is to be accomplished
with appropriate environmental protection and in an efficient manner. The selection of a
preferred alternative for dredged material management must be based on a weighing and
balancing of a number of considerations that include environmental acceptability,
technical feasibility, and economics. Although the intended scope of this document is
limited to considerations for determining environmental acceptability, other factors which
must be considered in the decision-making process are also mentioned where appropriate.
1.4 Regulatory Overview
Regulation of dredged material disposal within waters of the United States and
ocean waters is a complex issue and is a shared responsibility of the USEPA and
USACE. The primary Federal environmental statute governing transportation of dredged
material to the ocean for the purpose of disposal is the MPRSA, also called the Ocean
Dumping Act. The primary Federal environmental statute governing the discharge of
dredged or fill material into waters of the United States (inland of and including the
territorial sea) is the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, also
called the CWA. The regulatory path for disposal of dredged material in confined
disposal facilities (CDFs) is not as clear (USACE 2003). However, both the CWA and
NEPA provide strong mandates for USACE regulation of placement in CDFs. The
discharge of return flow (effluent and surface runoff) to waters of the United States is
specifically defined as a dredged material discharge under the CWA.
All proposed dredged material disposal activities regulated by the MPRSA and
CWA must also comply with the applicable requirements of NEPA and its implementing
regulations. In addition to MPRSA, CWA, and NEPA, a number of other Federal laws,
Executive orders, etc., must be considered in evaluation of dredging projects. An
overview of MPRSA, CWA, and NEPA is given in the following paragraphs. Additional
discussion of these and other applicable Federal laws is found in Appendix B.
1.4.1 Jurisdiction of MPRSA and CWA
The geographical jurisdictions of the MPRSA and CWA are indicated in Figure
1-1. As shown in Figure 1-1, an overlap of jurisdiction exists within the territorial sea.
The precedence of MPRSA or CWA in the area of the territorial sea is defined in 40 CFR
230.2 (b) and 33 CFR 336.0 (b). Material dredged from waters of the United States and
disposed in the territorial sea is evaluated under MPRSA. In general, dredged material
discharged as fill (e.g., beach nourishment, island creation, or underwater berms) and
placed within the territorial sea is evaluated under the CWA.