New Orleans marvels at the superiority of the Dutch


Almost like a child looking up to an older, more experienced sibling, Louisiana continues to seek guidance from the Netherlands.

That’s from a recent three-part special in New Orleans newspaper The Times Picayune. It’s a fascinating piece and I learned a lot from reading it.

Part 1 looks at hard infrastructure, namely the Maeslant Barrier. Part 2 is about coastal engineering and particularly the “Sand Motor”—an enormous and highly innovative “natural” sand displacement project to help manage coastal erosion. Part 3 covers managed retreat (i.e., not building housing and critical infrastructure on floodplains).

Part 2 is the most interesting. Supposedly the various dredging and land reclamation projects planned and ongoing in New Orleans are costing an astronomical sum (although the cash is coming from a vast payout from BP following Deepwater Horizon oil disaster). The Dutch projects are not only bigger, but also cheaper. Why is this? Because the US has a draconian and inefficient dredging industry:

Vast cost differences are all too common when U.S. dredging projects are compared with ones in other countries, including the Netherlands and Belgium — low-lying nations that export dredging services around the world… Belgian and Dutch firms can’t offer their services in the U.S. Two pieces of legislation — the Foreign Dredge Act of 1906 and the Jones Act — effectively banned foreign companies from dredging in U.S. waters. All dredges must be U.S.-built, U.S.-operated and U.S.-crewed. Changes to the Jones Act in 1988 added yet another requirement: American ownership of all barges transporting dredged sand.

…and…

About 98% of all private sector dredge work in the U.S. is handled by four firms — Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, of Illinois; Weeks Marine, of New Jersey; Manson Construction, of Washington state; and Dutra Dredging, of California… European dredgers have long lobbied to enter the U.S. market, estimating American taxpayers could save $1 billion per year if foreign firms were allowed to compete with U.S. companies.

The whole piece is here.