Brownwater News April 2021

Engineers give inland waterways infrastructure grade of D+
Shipping delays caused by deteriorating infrastructure on the nation’s inland waterways cost up to $739 per hour for an average tow, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), which gave the system of locks, dams and navigation channels a grade of D+ in the group’s 2021 report card.

In its 2020 annual report, the Waterways Council Inc. stated that about 9,700 tows with 55,000 barges were delayed by an average of 12.23 hours across the system for the year. The delays resulted in an estimated cost to the economy of nearly $84 million. By comparison, historic high water nationwide in 2019 delayed more than 18,000 tows with 60,000 barges, resulting in an estimated economic loss of $166 million.

The ASCE said recent increases in federal investment and higher user fees have begun to reverse decades of decline on the inland waterways, with unscheduled lock closures reaching a 20-year low in 2017. Although the group said this was encouraging, the system still reported a $6.8 billion backlog in construction projects, “harming the industries that rely on the waterways to get their goods to market.”

To continue to make progress on infrastructure, the ASCE recommended the following:

• Give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the authority to manage a project from start to finish, and ensure sufficient and timely appropriations from Congress to avoid costly “stop-and-start” construction.

• Fund waterways projects at the authorized levels and do so consistently, passing a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) on a two-year cycle.

• Develop and implement a standardized measurement for delays on the system.

• Ensure that the Inland Waterways Trust Fund continues to be fully appropriated.

• Increase the amount spent on operations and maintenance each year by providing more robust appropriations, and consider a prioritization method that can more strategically direct limited funds to needy projects.

Click here to read the complete report.

AWO webinar to address COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy
How is the towing industry dealing with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among mariners? What is the latest medical expertise on the vaccination process and vaccine safety? What common questions do industry employees have about vaccines?

To address these questions and other concerns about the pandemic, the American Waterways Operators (AWO) will hold a webinar on Wednesday, April 21 at 2 p.m. ET. The session will feature insights from Merritt Lane, president and CEO of Canal Barge Co.; Cmdr. Alice Shumate, director of the Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); and Dr. Scott Cherry, chief medical officer for Axiom Medical Consulting.

To register for the webinar, go the AWO’s member dashboard.

Great Lakes ports seek $2.9 billion for infrastructure, dredging
With infrastructure on the front burner in Washington, D.C., the American Great Lakes Ports Association (AGLPA) sent a letter to the region’s congressional delegation on April 7 calling for more than $2.9 billion in related investment and improvements.

Items on the AGLPA’s wish list include modernization of port and terminal facilities; construction a new heavy icebreaker for the Great Lakes; completing construction of a second Poe-sized lock at the Soo Locks and upgrading existing facilities there; repairing breakwaters and jetties, and restoring navigation channels to their authorized dimensions.

“As the White House and Congress begin work on a historic investment in the nation’s infrastructure, Great Lakes ports are urging that the region’s needs be addressed,” the AGLPA said. “President Biden proposed a massive $2 trillion infrastructure initiative, including a $17 billion investment in waterways and ports. The so-called American Jobs Plan will now be considered by Congress, which will add its own tweaks to the legislation — and perhaps include Great Lakes priorities.”

To view a copy of the letter, click here.

Ice out, navigation on: Upper Mississippi opens for business
The 2021 navigation season opened on the Upper Mississippi River on March 18 with the transit of the towboat R. Clayton McWhorter through Lock No. 7 at Dresbach, Minn.

The towboat, which was guiding 12 barges from the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa en route to St. Paul, Minn., locked through between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The tow earlier had transited Lake Pepin, which is the last barrier to spring navigation due to the fact that its ice is the last to break up.

The Army Corps said ongoing construction south at Lock and Dam 25 near Winfield, Mo., limited navigation on the Upper Mississippi until the end of the month.

AWO’s Barge-In, convention, meeting going virtual in May
After surveying its members and assessing public health conditions and COVID-related restrictions in the nation’s capital, the American Waterways Operators (AWO) will go virtual for its 2021 Spring Convention, Barge-In and annual membership meeting.

The centerpiece will be an online Barge-In on Wednesday, May 19, with 250 to 300 meetings slated between AWO members, members of Congress and staff. The three-day event will kick off on Tuesday, May 18, and it will conclude with the annual membership and board of directors meeting on Thursday, May 20.

The AWO will announce details on its website as they become available.

By Professional Mariner Staff