Framework for Dredged Material Management
noncontaminated, fine-grained material is to be dredged, the creation of wetlands or other
beneficial use is clearly an environmentally preferable alternative as compared with
open-water or confined disposal, assuming that the beneficial use need is demonstrated.
Such comparisons will necessarily be qualitative even though many
characteristics of the dredged material and the disposal site are measured quantitatively.
The process depends heavily on professional judgment and subjective evaluation rather
than on strict adherence to numerical calculations.
7.1.3 Alternative Selection
In assessing suitable alternatives for dredged material disposal, both the MPRSA
and CWA specifically recognize that a balance must at times be struck between critical
navigation and environmental protection.
Section 404(b)(2) of the CWA requires appropriate balancing of established
environmental guidelines with the economic impacts, to navigation and anchorage of not
allowing the proposed disposal to proceed. The baseline for this analysis is that disposal
must not result in unacceptable adverse impact to the environment (Section 404(c)).
Section 103(b) of the MPRSA requires the USACE to determine the need for
ocean disposal based on USEPA's established environmental criteria as well as on an
evaluation of the impact of permit denial on critical navigation and related economic
considerations. The baseline for this analysis is that the disposal must not result in
unreasonable environmental degradation or endangerment to human health (Section 103
In practice, however, this level of decision making has generally been found to be
a "worst case" situation (i.e., the economic waiver provision of Section 103(d) of the
MPRSA has never been formally invoked). For Federal navigation projects, USACE
standard policy is to select the least-cost, environmentally acceptable alternative.
Compliance with the MPRSA and/or CWA Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines is prerequisite
to a USACE determination of an "environmentally acceptable" management alternative
for dredged material.
7.2 Environmental Coordination/Documentation/Recommended Alternative
The weighing and balancing of all environmental, technical, and economic factors
will result in selection of the preferred/proposed alternative by the lead agency.
Coordination and environmental documentation associated with alternative selection is
illustrated in Flowchart 3-1.
Documentation of this recommended plan occurs formally in either a draft NEPA
document (along with alternatives) or a Section 404 or 103 Public Notice. These
documents are available to the public and concerned agencies for review and comment.
In some instances, circulation of Public Notices and the NEPA document may occur