The other concern is whether HarborRock's process can be cost effective. Port officials note that a German plant that turned dredge into bricks has closed because the product wasn't competitive with traditional bricks.

Otto said he understands the caution but believes those issues can be addressed in a contract.

"It's a big technical exercise, and it's easier to move a line on a spreadsheet than in real life," he said. "Once we hear their concerns, we'll have our engineers draw up and size the facility and we'll be able to put our numbers on the table. We'll make a proposal to the MPA that defines roles and puts a price on it."

He continued, "That price has to be competitive with the port's other options. We feel our proposal, with private funding, will be competitive."

Otto said his partners on the project, whom he declined to name, are industry leaders in engineering, construction and sediment management.

Venetoulis said the $1.3 billion public-private partnership between the port administration and Ports America for operation of the Seagirt Marine Terminal shows the state has learned to negotiate creatively.

"We really are way out front on this and we need to take advantage of it," he said.

Otto said he is confident a deal will get done.

"The port has methodically worked through the issues and checked the boxes and seen for itself that this works," he said. "When we build this in Baltimore, it's going to change the industry."