Using optimization strategies to prioritize dredging operations

Researchers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have developed dredging optimization models using artificial intelligence and operations research methods to help prioritize and schedule dredging operations across the enterprise.

Dredging is the largest individual item in the USACE civil works budget, and traditionally there has not been a rigorously quantitative nor repeatable process for determining the most efficient and effective way to conduct maintenance dredging across hundreds of projects nationwide.

However, two separate models, the Dredge Project Selection Optimization model and the Dredge Fleet Scheduling Optimization model aim to change all that. 

“These models are not about dredging operations,” Dr. Ned Mitchell, a research civil engineer with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, said.

“This is not about how to dredge. It is more about how to manage the dredging program, both from a budgetary standpoint and a scheduling standpoint.”

The USACE spends around $1.5 billion each year on dredging in hundreds of navigation projects across the country.

A typical dredging project goes through several phases, including project planning, bidding, contract award, dredging, placement, inspection and project completion.

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Photo: Jaclyn Pennoyer, USACE