What does it mean to you?

By Janet Kirkton, Dredging Industry Steward

So What Is in A Word?

Given Caterpillar’s commitment to sustainability, the restoration of natural infrastructure, and my role as the Dredging Industry Steward, I have been thinking about and visiting dredging and reclamation project sites all over the place. However, depending upon who I was talking to or where I was in the world, the vernacular used to describe the work varied considerably. This was especially true with regards to the use of “reclamation.” Although this term has been in use since the 1600s, there doesn’t seem to be a shared understanding of what it is or what it could be. As such, I thought it would be interesting to take a deeper dive into reclamation, beginning with an informal survey to see what the industry has to say. This is the first of a three part series on what I've discovered.

Last month I had the privilege to participate in the Battelle Ninth International Conference on Remediation and Management of Contaminated Sediments in New Orleans and figured this was an excellent audience to poll. Jam-packed with scholars, scientists, engineers, contractors, government agencies, and industry thought leaders – the conference was buzzing with the latest and greatest techniques and technologies for remediation and the cleaning and/or isolation of contaminants in sediment. It was a busy and exciting week and we felt right at home. Thank you Battelle for a job well done!

What does reclamation mean to you?

Following are the top 10 responses I received. All but one considered reclamation favorably.

  1. Put to use cleaned dredged materials in environmentally safe and usable ways – such as shore line restoration.
  2. Likely adverse for the marine environment – exercise caution
  3. Bringing back the usefulness of an area to a viable environmental ecological area.
  4. My work focuses mostly on restoration.  Reclamation has a different connotation – that of creating opportunities for beneficial re-use of contaminated sites and sediments.
  5. When done well, land reclamation can serve all three sustainability ideals - environmental, economic and cultural. Great opportunity.
  6. Reuse of materials.
  7. Removing sediments.
  8. Very useful for environment.
  9. Restoring land, wetlands and rivers that have been degraded over years. 
  10. Putting it back to its natural purpose; reinvigorating it to what it used to be; bringing it back to life; returning it to its original glory.


What reclamation means to me

Given the audience, it is no surprise that we received such great and varied responses. The main take away for me is the fact that the process of reclamation can be applied in so many different ways to:

  • restore land or water to a former, more useful state 
  • beneficially reuse materiel to create something new 
  • claim something back, other than land or water

The dictionary defines reclamation as follows:

noun: reclamation; plural noun: reclamations

• the process of claiming something back or of reasserting a right

"the reclamation of our shared history"

• the cultivation of waste land or land formerly under water

"the aggressive reclamation of woodlands for agricultural production"

With this expanded definition in mind, I have been in search of a deeper understanding of reclamation around the world and the potential impact it could have on communities. To me, no matter how we define the word, the results are so much more important than the quantity of earth that is moved. I’m looking forward to sharing a case study with you in my next post of perhaps the finest and most comprehensive example of reclamation I have encountered to date – which is taking place in the city of Rikuzentakata, Japan.

For part two of this series, check back soon for an inspiring story of the reclamation of Rikuzentakata following a natural disaster and what it means for their people, their economy, and their future.



Janet Kirkton

As Caterpillar’s Industry Steward for Dredging, Ports & Waterways, Jan is constantly in pursuit of new opportunities and solutions to serve this vast industry. Her kids liken this job to being a "Master Transformer" - and truthfully, it kind of is.

In collaboration with customers and external partners, Jan leverages Caterpillar core products to develop new and innovative solutions for dredging companies and contractors. Whether you’re working on land or in the sea, our unique custom products benefit from the same incredible support from our dealer network as our standard Cat machines. How great is that?

Have an idea? She would love to hear about it. Connect with Jan on LinkedIn or email her at HMS_solutions@cat.com!

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