Harbor Technical Advisory Committee
Cooperative planning for the Duluth-Superior port & St. Louis River estuary
One of three advisory committees to the MIC, the Harbor Technical Advisory Committee (HTAC) is a longstanding, diverse stakeholder group with a growing list of successful planning and policy initiatives. Recognized by the US-Canadian port community as a model for successful planning, collaboration and information sharing, it is, in the words of former Duluth Seaway Port Authority Director Adolf Ojard, “a committee that actually gets work done.”
- To provide a forum for the discussion of issues and concerns pertaining to the Duluth-Superior harbor
- To promote the harbor’s economic and environmental importance to the community
- To provide sound planning and management recommendations to the Metropolitan Interstate Council
The HTAC meets quarterly. Current topics include dredged material management, maritime navigation in the harbor, environmental windows, Great Lakes shipping, environmental restoration and enhancement activities, and land use issues in the working harbor and the broader St. Louis River estuary.
- Federal, state, and local partners continuously work together to establish beneficial uses of approximately 120,000 cubic yards annually of clean federal navigation channel dredged material.
- The Erie Pier confined disposal facility (CDF) was converted from a standard Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) to a first-of-its-kind Processing and Reuse Facility (PRF) for dredge materials, which are tested and certified as uncontaminated and beneficially used locally in environmental remediation, habitat restoration, and beach nourishment projects.
- The Erie Pier Management Plan was recently rewritten (approved in 2021).
- A diverse group of partners created “Paddle Safe Twin Ports”, an effort to enhance recreational paddlesport safety that has resulted in safety messaging, a website that links additional useful information, plans for outreach at events and via other media, and signage at the most popular launch locations in the Duluth-Superior area.
- Coordinated multi-agency research discovered the cause of, and mitigation strategies for, the accelerated freshwater corrosion that threatened $120 million in pier, dock wall and piling infrastructure.
- Recommendations from the Duluth-Superior Port Land Use plan, to reserve remaining waterfront land for maritime access to the federally-maintained shipping channels, have been incorporated into each city’s Comprehensive Plan.
HTAC as a Model for Other Port Communities
Participation on the HTAC encourages representatives from industry, government, academic, environmental, regulatory and citizen groups on both sides of the bridge to work toward solutions, recognizing that although they have separate and distinct missions, they also have shared goals. Most port communities face similar challenges, such as managing dredged materials, cleaning up contaminated sediments and maintaining port infrastructure. The Minnesota and Wisconsin Sea Grant Programs as well as the Army Corps of Engineers are actively promoting the creation of harbor committees, similar to HTAC, as a way for other communities to more effectively address these issues.
The HTAC’s member-initiated working groups address specific issues in-depth, and report back to the full HTAC and to the MIC Policy Board.
The Dredging Subcommittee supports short and long term strategies for dredged material management. It recently worked to update the Erie Pier Management Plan, which indefinitely extends the life of the facility by replacing its traditional design as a Confined Disposal Facility to an innovative, first- of- its-kind Processing and Reuse Facility.
Other efforts related to dredge material management include working with the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District as they consider developing a new Dredged Material Management Plan for the Duluth-Superior harbor, and working to find additional beneficial use projects for navigation channel dredged materials as part of the Duluth-Superior Harbor Dredged Material Management Work Group.
The Navigation Subcommittee was convened at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Duluth to bring navigation and port stakeholders together twice annually (in the spring and fall) to discuss topics related to navigation and safety in the working harbor.
Other meetings may be held when encountering early or extended ice conditions to discuss lock closures and other seasonal issues, or those related to dredging, waterfront development projects, or other matters as deemed necessary.
Port Land Use Plan Subcommittee
This study committee was appointed in 2014 to assist with the update of the 2006 Duluth-Superior Port Land Use Plan to guide future development and land use in the port area. After the completion of the updated plan in 2016, members of this working group developed an Implementation Strategy for the plan’s recommendations. Progress on implementing the plan is shared during some HTAC quarterly meetings.
Membership and Bylaws Subcommittee
The Membership and Bylaws Subcommittee meets on an as needed basis to review membership issues and to discuss potential changes to the HTAC bylaws. The Bylaws were last updated in June of 2020 and the new voting member list was finalized August of 2021.
Great Lakes Ports Advocacy Subcommittee (inactive)
The Great Lakes Ports Advocacy Coalition organizes informal stakeholder lobbying efforts in Washington D.C. targeted at increasing funding for maintenance dredging and other water transportation infrastructure.
Open Water Mitigation Subcommittee (inactive)
The Open Water Mitigation (OWM) subcommittee was created in 2015 to examine issues and align existing regulations related to the efficient permitting of development projects within the Duluth Superior Harbor, and to recommend improvements where needed. A primary objective is to enhance communication and coordination across agencies to better provide clear expectations and timelines for those seeking permits within the harbor and to streamline the permitting process. Other work items include identifying open water mitigation options or case studies through a formal, multi-state literature search and exploring the possibility of establishing an open water mitigation bank (similar to the concept of a “wetlands bank”) for the Port of Duluth Superior. The work of this Subcommittee has been completed.
The 34 voting members of the HTAC represent a wide range of harbor stakeholders including business owners, environmental groups and local, state and federal staff and officials who are directly concerned with the planning, programming and implementation of issues pertaining to the harbors of Duluth and Superior. In addition, non-voting technical advisors from relevant agencies, organizations and government entites are encouraged to attend and participate in HTAC meetings.