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DredgeWire Exclusive: WEDA Gathers in Tampa for Annual Dredging Summit and Expo

WEDA Board member Lori Brownell, left, with Jessica Bridges, new executive director of the group, on the post conference boat tour

Posted on July 1, 2024

By Judith Powers

The Western Dredging Association (WEDA) held its annual Dredging Summit & Expo from June 24th through 27th at the JW Marriott in Tampa, Florida.  Final attendance was 700, which included registered members, speakers, and exhibitors.

Executive Director Jessica Bridges, hired by the WEDA Executive Committee at the beginning of 2024,  was on hand to manage the business of the Tampa event and to meet the members.  Introducing her, President Matt Binsfeld explained that Bridges was selected as the candidate most qualified to lead the group under the strategic plan WEDA adopted in 2023.  This plan consists of four pillars that define the purpose of WEDA – education, publications, membership, and governance, each with leadership by volunteer members dedicated to fulfilling their role.

Jessica Bridges has a vast background in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), but for adults, and has a substantial technical background, Binsfeld said in a conversation with DredgeWire.  Her education and experience include organizational management, and a thorough knowledge of non-profit organizations and the laws governing them, he said.

Her background will help with our vision and how it will be accomplished,” said WEDA Vice President Carol Shobrook.  “She has the technical knowledge of strategies that expand education, budgeting and other things that have to align to make them happen.  She will keep the organization on a sound footing while we execute our goals,” said Shobrook.

“We are thankful for all (outgoing executive director) Tom Cappellino has done for the organization,” said Binsfeld, stressing his management during the pandemic when WEDA would have lost the substantial fees it paid in 2019 to reserve two hotels for future meetings, specifically in Texas and Florida, where the hotels were not willing to make allowances for pandemic-related changes or cancellations.

“Starting in 2015, Tom redefined what is possible in our balance sheet, getting sponsors, and proving very adept in the business operations of WEDA,” said Binsfeld.

“We have been in a transition in which Tom has been very helpful in planning the conference, transition of duties and passing the baton,” said Binsfeld. “We wish him the very best in his future endeavors,” he said.

At meetings of the Education and Environmental commissions on Monday, June 24th, members discussed details of their roles in the organization.  The Education Commission discussed the Webinar program and how to engage people to give Webinars in their fields, the Tech Notes program, the WEDA Fellows and mentor programs, and scholarships.  The Environmental Commission discussed the paucity of nominations for the annual Environmental awards, until the nomination procedure was simplified, beginning with the questions “why does his project deserve the award?”  The result was a high submission rate for the 2024 awards.

The technical program included four tracks of presentations on Tuesday and Wednesday, and a safety panel and plenary the morning of the final day.  The papers were selected by a nine-person technical paper committee chaired by Shelly Anghera, PhD, and included Donald Hayes, PhD, Walter Dinicola, P.E., Paul Fugelvand, P.E., Lori Brownell, P.E., Kwasi Badu Tweneboah, PhD, P.E., Connor Lamb, P.E. Janna Phillips, and Conner Tennant.

There were 110 exhibitors, including dredging contractors, manufacturers, vendors, and consultants.

2024 Dredger of the Year Walt Dinicola, right, with WEDA President Matt Binsfeld, left

Walter Dinicola received the 2024 Dredger of the Year Award.  This award honors visionaries who substantially elevate the dredging community. Anchor QEA, Dinicola’s employer, stated “As our national leader in Ports and Waterfront with three decades of experience, Walt stands out not only as a pioneering force in dredging innovation but also as a leading architect of industry collaboration. Congratulations, Walt, on this well-deserved recognition!”

Ray Bergeron, center, received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the gala. With him are Matt Binsfeld, left, president of WEDA, and Ken Humanic, right, who presented the award

Ray Bergeron of Cable Arm Clamshell was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his long and generous service to the dredging industry, offering advice and counsel on the use of clamshell buckets to all who asked. His mentorship and professional friendship are open to all in the industry, and his revolutionary bucket design has provided the industry with lower cost, lighter weight, low turbidity, and high production where silt is predominant.

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company was presented with the Annual Safety Award.

Three Dredger on Deck awards were presented to outstanding dredge crew members.  Awardees were George Strawn, Kenneth Machacek, and Tim Tolvstad.  The Young WEDA Member award was presented to Kimbrie Gobbi.

Mercedes James, left, of DSC presented the best paper award to authors Don Hays, center, and Ancil Taylor

Best paper awards were presented: for the WEDA/M&N best paper: “Dredged Material Confined Disposal Facility Design Optimization during Construction at Spirit Lake, Duluth, Minnesota”, by Jamie Beaver, MattBowman, Michael Ciarlo, Jeff Boltz, Luke Rief, and Mark Loomis.  Young WEDA best paper: “Improving the Accuracy of Navigation Channel Maintenance Forecasts Using Automated Dredge Monitoring,” by Rachel Bain, Kaitlyn McPherran, Michael Hartman, Anna Godfrey and Kenneth Mitchell; and the DSC Dredging is Good award: “Inspiring Dredging-Related Innovation through Research and Development”, by Donald Hayes, Ram Mohan, Mindy Strevig, Ancil Taylor, Alan Kennedy, Daniel Farrar and Katherine Brutsché.

The event ended with a luncheon cruise of Tampa Bay.

The 2024 Conference and Expo are the lead-up to the World Dredging Conference (WODCON), scheduled for June 23 through 27th 2025 at the Hilton Bayfront hotel in San Diego, California. This worldwide conference is expected to draw attendees from around the world and will be planned in conjunction with the Eastern Dredging Association (EADA) and the Central Dredging Association (CEDA).  WEDA hosts the conference every nine years. Information on this conference will be on the WEDA website:

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