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Each year the Western Dredging Association proudly presents Environmental Excellence Awards to outstanding projects/programs during its annual WEDA Dredging Summit & Expo.

In 2023 the categories for the awards were reimagined and two Environmental Excellence Awards were given. An award in the category “Partnerships and Outreach/Education” was presented to the Spirit Lake Sediment Remediation Project, and a second in the category “Innovation” to J.F. Brennan Company for the Howards Bay Project. The winners were announced at the WEDA Summit & Expo held from July 17 to 20, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

WEDA’s 2023 Environmental Excellence Award for Partnerships and Outreach/Education was presented to the Spirit Lake Sediment Remediation Project, which is in the St. Louis River in Duluth, Minnesota. The project was executed by a team comprising EA Engineering, Science, and Technology, Inc., PBC. (EA), BARR Engineering and AECOM, and J.F.  Brennan, in cooperation with the Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) within the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and their project partner, the United States Steel Corporation {USS). 

The Spirit Lake Sediment Remediation Project is within the Saint Louis River Area of Concern (SLRAOC) and is being completed under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) Great Lakes Legacy Act (GLLA) as a cost-share partnership between USEPA and the United States Steel Corporation (USS), with each entity providing a portion of the funds to complete the project. This is a priority project within the SLROAC to address historical releases to sediment within Spirit Lake, located in the St. Louis River upstream of Lake Superior, and in onshore areas. Project construction began in 2020; remediation is complete, and the project is in the third and final construction season to complete the habitat restoration component. Completion of the project will support the eventual de-listing of the Beneficial Use Impairments (BU ls) currently in place for the Spirit Lake area. 

This project fulfills the criteria for the Partnerships and Outreach/Education Award including: significant environmental benefits from pairing a large-scale sediment remediation project using a combined technology approach with extensive habitat restoration and creation of new open water; a partnership structure working group; collaboration through feasibility, design, pre-design investigations, permitting, and design modifications and construction with federal, state, and local agencies and tribes; unique approaches using engineering with nature.

to enhance the existing habitats and create a new dynamic back-bay system; development and implementation of a detailed community outreach plan including formation of a dedicated Outreach Team and regular engagement with residents; and strategies and lesson learned that can be readily applied to future remediation and restoration projects in other AOCs. 

The partnership and outreach methods implemented at Spirit Lake demonstrated and continue to demonstrate the success of a proactive and adaptive collaboration strategy with regulatory agencies, local residents, and other project stakeholders, while at the same time meeting the remedial goals and desired final habitat conditions for the AOC project. The key elements of this project partnership could readily be applied to similar sediment remediation and habitat restoration projects. 

WEDA’s 2023 Environmental Excellence Award for Innovation was presented to the Howards Bay Navigation and Cleanup Dredging Project, which is located within the St. Louis River Area of Concern (SLRAOC) in Superior, Wisconsin, and is an important part of the Port of Duluth-Superior and the home of the Fraser Shipyards (Fraser) and drydocks. J.F. Brennan Company, Inc. (Brennan), partnered with Arcadis and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), to work on the Howards Bay Remediation project using innovative methods to secure a positive outcome. A partnership of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), Fraser, and the City of Superior (City) was organized through the Great Lakes Legacy Act (GLLA) to co-fund and achieve this project. 

The Howards Bay Project, with a total dredge area of over 50 acres, involved two phases over two consecutive seasons and aimed to remove legacy contamination from the shipyard, port, and municipal outfalls, and to improve water quality and habitat. Throughout the project, the team overcame a series of challenges to successfully initiate the work. Logistical challenges associated with work in an active shipyard in a public waterway and multiple contractors on-site posed many safety concerns. Effective coordination and communication between Brennan, USACE, and Fraser Shipyards were established early on to avoid mishaps. A moored and non-operational 730-foot bulk freighter, the SS Edward L. Ryerson, had to be repositioned multiple times to access several dredge areas and the team had to ensure that these moves were safely performed without incurring any lost-time incidents, injuries, or damage to property or equipment. 

Throughout the project, constant innovation, communication and timely re-thinking between Brennan, project partners, Arcadis, and subcontractors were key to success. In some areas, site conditions varied between the pre-dredge design sampling period and the conditions encountered during dredging four years or more later. While the project included numerous unforeseen challenges, all parties involved upheld the ultimate goal of providing leadership and teamwork to address these concerns while also maintaining a strict window of completion. The original scope changed during the construction process, involving input and coordination with all project partners. The team collaborated on design alternatives and work plans for the backfill design, recovery of the sunken fish tug, A.E. Clifford, and oil sheen control within the harbor. 

The successful completion of this project is a major milestone in de-listing remediation concerns within the SLRAOC, contributing to an important goal of the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Restoration of navigational depths and providing a healthy ecological environment not only helped improve conditions in the harbor system, but will also have a lasting impact on the community by supporting the future of Fraser Shipyards, an important local employer. The project involved close to 100 personnel all working toward the same goal. Many local companies in the Duluth-Superior area provided services to the project, from material hauling and cement import companies to soil stabilization and sand import vendors. Participating in this work so close to home gave them all a personal stake in the success of the project. 

For further information, please contact Craig Vogt at or Tom Cappellino at or see the WEDA website:

Craig Vogt
WEDA Environmental Commission Chair

Thomas P. Cappellino
WEDA Executive Director