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Policy Statement 513 - Beneficial Use of Dredged Materials


Approved by the Energy, Environment and Water Policy Committee on February 12, 2014

Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 9, 2014

Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2014


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the beneficial use of dredged material. ASCE recommends that:

  • All dredged sediment be used beneficially unless it is clearly impractical to do so.
  • The federal government revises its methodology for economic analysis of dredging costs to reflect gaining the benefits of using dredged material for coastal protection, environmental stewardship and other beneficial uses as well as to avoid disposal costs.
  • Government and private entities that develop and execute projects requiring dredging be stewards for the beneficial use of dredged material.
  • Dredged material be managed as a resource using life-cycle dredged material management plans that consider regional sediment management needs; dredging frequencies, locations, and quantities; as well as landscape use and change.
  • Contaminated sediments, considering the contaminant and degree of contamination, be evaluated for selected beneficial uses.
  • Any dredging plan includes a comprehensive monitoring plan that considers site requirements, beneficial uses, and environmental impacts.


Dredging is the removal of material from the bottom of lakes, rivers, harbors and other water bodies. Most dredging is done to maintain or deepen navigation channels, anchorages or berthing areas for the safe passage of boats and ships.  

Monitoring of dredged material placement sites is critical to the success of a project. Site requirements and the particular beneficial use must be considered in determining the most efficient and effective monitoring plan. A comprehensive monitoring plan should include: properly selected monitoring tools and study design; pre-placement and post-placement data collection; and clearly defined success criteria. The sophistication of the monitoring program depends on the beneficial use and the environmental impact.

Many confined dredged material disposal sites are at or near capacity.  Development of new sites is expensive and can create environmental impacts. Use of the dredged material in these sites as well as alternative sites specifically designed for beneficial purposes provides a valuable resource, as well as capacity for future dredge disposal activities.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, several hundred million cubic yards of sediment must be dredged from United States ports, harbors, and waterways each year to maintain and improve the nation's navigation system for commercial, national defense, and recreational purposes. Traditional dredging methods discharge sediment into confined disposal facilities or waters of oceans, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and estuaries. Dredged material containment facilities in the United States are nearly or are already filled to capacity with material. Identifying new containment sites poses difficulties due to conflicting land uses, potential environmental impacts, and high values of near-water real estate.
Due to growing scientific knowledge and public awareness of using dredged material as a valuable resource, beneficial use of dredged material has become a viable alternative to traditional "dredge and dispose" methods for many projects. Prior to 1970, beneficial uses of dredged material typically included creating or expanding land for airports, ports, residential, or commercial development. Environmental, economic, social, and other benefits can be derived from the productive use of dredged material. Dredged material is increasingly used beneficially for a greater variety of projects and purposes.


Beneficial use of dredged material has been a topic of discussion for years but has not received the emphasis needed to change national dredging practice. As a nation, we need to implement the new federal policy on the beneficial use of dredged material as the standard practice for federally sponsored dredging projects. Beneficial use of dredged material makes economic and environmental sense.

ASCE Policy Statement 513

First Approved in 2006