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Dredging projects, where sand and sediment buildup are removed from bodies of water using a piece of crane-like equipment called a dredge, are one of the largest industrial activities in American port cities. Without dredging, ports would lose the necessary capacity to hold large cargo ships and boats and potentially risk these vessels getting stuck. 

In 1906, the Foreign Dredge Act was signed to ensure dredges were manufactured and owned domestically, becoming a significant setback for the dredging industry. The act arose over concern that sand and sediment picked up from foreign-owned dredges would be exported. Since then, the U.S. has depended on American equipment. 

However, the lack of investment and bills supporting dredging has impacted dredge development, forcing the U.S. to fall behind while other countries superseded the technology. With our ports staying the same size and our ships and cargo becoming larger, the amount of sediment build-up is greater than our equipment can keep up with. Incoming ships are getting lodged in the sediment build up and our equipment cannot dredge efficiently enough. 

One prime example is the Ever Forward cargo ship. It was docking into the Chesapeake Bay on March 13 when it hit mud and got stuck. A month later, it came free of the mud after joint efforts were made by private and government companies.

The U.S. Senate has attempted to push dredging funds forward with bills introduced to the floor to alleviate the U.S. dredging effort. The most recent bill introduced was the Ship It Act by Senator Byron Donalds and Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach, allowing NATO countries to help with dredging in the U.S.

Cassandra Flandre-Nguyen is a first-year student at Orange Coast College as a Political Science major with a Public Policy focus and Pre-Law Emphasis. She is an Infrastructure Policy Intern at Our National Conversation.


Alloway, Tracy, and Joe Weisenthal. “Transcript: The 1906 Dredging Law That May Be Holding Back the U.S. Economy.”, 21 April 2022,

Grabow, Colin. “To New Critics of the Foreign Dredge Act: Welcome Aboard!” Cato Institute, 29 April 2022,

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “What is dredging?” National Ocean Service, 17 March 2021,

Plott, Jacob. “Continued Inaction on U.S. Dredging Policy Stifles Competition and Burdens Taxpayers.” National Taxpayers Union, 20 August 2020,


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