What’s in a Name? What We Call Things Matters

It’s one of William Shakespeare’s most famous quotes: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” And while it may be true that it is only the substance of people and things that should matter, the reality, of course, and certainly for Romeo and Juliette, can be quite different – and this very much applies to the recreational boating world. The words we use, whether promoting the industry, seeking approvals, or interacting with customers, can matter quite a bit.

A few of the words that come to mind in the current moment are resiliency, living shorelines, and sustainability. Since sustainability was the focus of last issue’s column, I won’t dwell on it too much here, other than to reiterate that it is definitely an “in” word, and the more you can apply it to your operations, proposed projects, and public relations, the better off you will be.
Resiliency and Marina Design

The same is true with resiliency, which has really come into its own over the past 10 years, particularly in New York following Super Storm Sandy back in 2012. In so many instances it just seems to be magic. Demonstrating how a desired project is providing resiliency can be very meaningful. The concept of building a tall and robust concrete wall for flood protection around a large portion of an island would seem to be contrary to most of the programmatic regulatory community desires – and indeed the agencies have denied many a seawall or bulkhead project. But that is what the Army Corps of Engineers has proposed to protect against major flooding in New York City. Concept work is now proceeding with the active participation of the regulatory agencies because of the project’s high ranking as providing resiliency to the community.

On the state level, New York created a Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) to help build the resiliency of communities throughout the state. One REDI effort that particularly got my attention has been New York’s Regional Dredging Project, aimed at building resiliency along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway by promoting the dredging of channels in recreational boating harbors. I’m still not entirely sure how they threaded this needle, but the first two of the project’s three phases have been completed and a considerable amount of dredging undertaken. For those who are not from the Northeast or West Coast, you may not fully appreciate just how magical this is since getting navigation channels dredged for recreational boating is not something the agencies in the areas tend to give high priority!

Sign up for the Marina Dock Age newsletter.Our newsletter delivers the latest news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive content covering the marina and boatyard industry, new products, and much more.

The Issue with Dredging
Dredging in many areas has long been a hot topic, and one that creates instant divisions. And most often it is not the dredging that people are most concerned about, but it is what to do with the dredged materials, which are still too often commonly referred to as “spoils.” Who would ever want to receive “spoils” or have “spoils” “dumped” into our waterways?

The discussion becomes more meaningful when one does not wave a red flag in front of a bull. For years we have been advocating for changes in the words we use to talk about dredging. The word “spoils” should be eliminated from the marine industry’s vocabulary, and I think we are getting to a point where this has largely taken hold, and we finally are achieving pretty consistent use of dredge “materials.” It would be nice if we could also get to “relocating” dredged materials instead of “dumping” or “disposal.” All dredging in the U.S. is highly regulated by federal and state laws and agencies. Some of the materials are relocated upland and some of the materials are relocated to in-water sites, often to deep holes in the sea bottom. What seems to either escape discussion or not rise to the surface (pun not intended) is that the dredge materials to be removed are often in our harbors or near shore shallow areas where we swim, fish, and pursue other forms of water recreation, as well as where there are often some of your more sensitive environmental resources.

These shallower depths are also impacted greatly by major rains, or wind and wave energy events, which negatively disturb the bottom. So, if one is concerned about the nature of the materials, there really is a case that not dredging and not relocating the material can be much more serious than relocating it.

It’s also been interesting to watch how the “beneficial use” of dredge materials has continued to evolve, at times now including a number of practices that had been considered taboo when they were thought of as disposal! Forget side-casting, think thin layer placement.

Preserving Shorelines
We hear a lot today about “living shorelines” and making things “green.” And that should be as desirable as apple pie and ice cream. Like most things in this world, the devil is in the details. If the apples are not baked well and the ice cream is melted – the result may not be as appreciated as desired. Shorelines that are subject to high wave energy issues, as well as currents and ice scour, do not typically fare well with just a vegetated shoreline. But rock seawalls and/or riprap or other solid shoreline features can be combined with vegetation above (and sometime below) the areas of potential erosion to create a valuable living shoreline. In fact, some of the most recent pieces we’ve seen on living shorelines seem to be coming to these types of realizations. Creating other vegetated buffers along the landside edge of the top of a bulkhead, seawall, hardscape, or hard surface shoreline interface, can act not only as a warm and friendly vegetated area, but double for stormwater filtration and retention. It has a softening aesthetic look and has a significant beneficial functionality.

Showing how a project is “green” can be very helpful in the approval process, both as potential mitigation for that which is programmatically borderline, as well as being meaningful to the environment. And as we have set forth in our previous article, there are many ways to be green from major to minor undertakings that are cost effective and meaningful. Such approaches as maximizing pervious surfaces for parking lots, and minimizing impervious surfaces to needed work areas, not only are making things greener, but are also less expensive to implement and maintain.

Adverse Effects of Words
Another issue that marina projects face can be the perceived privatizing of water access. Most times, questions about public access are raised when a project is proposed. For some time, we have advocated those discussions should, where possible, be shifted to access by the public. The difference is that many define public access as unrestricted access. But access by the public allows for controlled access. A good example is that most public parks have regulations that control the access of the public, including such things as hours, types of use, and activities, etc. In effect, communities allow access by the public with specific restrictions and/or requirements – so what is so different with marinas? In many cases it is not too hard to argue that marinas actually provide more access by the public than many public parks!

Indeed, the use of words can have major beneficial or adverse effects in discussions with regulatory agencies, neighbors and the public. Part of it is how one phrases it and can make the case with substantive backup as opposed to bravado or trying to mislead.

As I am preparing this column I could not leave out my reaction to the comments made by Vladimir Putin at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where he stated that it was simply a “peace keeping” operation involving the deployment of “self-defense units,” as opposed to the reality of it being a massive invasion, waging war, and the attempted destruction of a country.

Such extreme spinning of reality helped galvanize much of the rest of the world in opposition to his efforts – obviously not the intended goal.
So what does that example have to do with the marina industry? Well, the wrong words and statements can often backfire, creating issues with neighbors, the public, and regulatory agencies. On the other hand, thoughtful commentary can often help in meaningful communication and dialogue.

When meeting with neighbors and other groups as well as regulatory agencies, the key is to be selective in the words and phrases that are used. And unlike Putin – do not blatantly mislead in one’s phraseology. Have the back-up to explain and demonstrate the substance of what is proposed.

What we call things really does matter. And while dredge material may never smell as sweet as a rose, dredge “spoils” bring to mind something more akin to a corpse flower – and that has a smell that is about as foul as foul gets.

Dan Natchez is president of DANIEL S. NATCHEZ and ASSOCIATES Inc., a leading international environmental waterfront design consulting company specializing in the design of marinas and marina resorts throughout the world. He invites your comments and inquiries by phone at (914) 698-5678, by WhatsApp at (914) 381-1234, by email at dan.n@dsnainc.com or on the Web at www.dsnainc.com.