NWC calls Army Corps budget â€˜inadequateâ€™
The National Waterways Conference (NWC) described as â€œinadequateâ€ the funding proposed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineerâ€™s civil works program in the administrationâ€™s budget for fiscal year 2011.
â€œThe $4.9 billion proposal, a 10 percent cut compared to FY 2010 funding levels, fails to recognize the Corpsâ€™ critical role as stewards of our nationâ€™s water resources, and the vital importance of our water resources infrastructure to our economic and environmental well-being,â€ the conference said. â€œWe had hoped that last yearâ€™s budget signified the new administrationâ€™s understanding of and commitment to the importance of our nationâ€™s water resources to our national prosperity.â€
â€œOur ports and waterways are the backbone of our transportation system,â€ the conference said. â€œThe cost for transportation over inland waterways is two to three times lower than other modes of transportation, translating into an annual savings of $7 billion for American businesses.â€
Barges thumb their noses at record snowfall
James R. McCarville, executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh, boasted Feb. 11 that while the recent record-breaking snowfall along the East Coast blocked roads and stalled cars, it had little or no affect on the movement of freight on the nationâ€™s inland rivers.
â€œWhile the rest of southwestern Pennsylvania waited for the trash to be picked up and the mail to be delivered, and put off other activities, towboats and barges continued to move up and down our rivers, conducting business as usual, bringing in much needed salt for the roads, heating oil for homes and coal for electric power generation, among other commodities,â€ McCarville said. â€œBetween Feb. 5 and Feb. 10, during which time approximately 30 inches of snow fell on the Pittsburgh area, about 600 barges, nearly half carrying coal, delivered cargo to the port.â€
Seaway navigation season to open March 25
U.S. and Canadian administrators set March 25 as the opening date for the 2010 navigation season of the Montreal-Lake Ontario section, Welland Canal and the Sault Ste. Marie locks and canals in the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Seaway authorities reminded mariners that the speed of vessels loaded to a draft greater than 26 feet 3 inches will be monitored carefully between the upper entrance to Lock 7 and former Bridge 12 in order to reduce bank erosion in that area.
Rates for pilotage service on Great Lakes to increase Aug. 1
The Coast Guard has announced that on Aug. 1 it will increase rates for pilotage service on the Great Lakes by an average of about 5.1 percent. The same average increase was proposed by the Coast Guard in a notice of proposed rulemaking published Oct. 30, 2009.
The Coast Guard said the increase reflects an Aug. 1 increase in benchmark contractual wages and benefits and an adjustment for inflation.
Details of the Coast Guardâ€™s final rule on pilotage rates are covered on 13 pages of the Feb. 23 issue of the Federal Register.
Grassley calls for major improvements to river infrastructure
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), winner of this yearâ€™s Waterways Council Inc.â€™s (WCI) Leadership Service Award, said Feb. 24 that for this country to grow economically, â€œWe must not allow our transportation infrastructure to continue to deteriorate. Our international competitors are making major investments in their transportation systems. Therefore, we must invest in major improvements to our river infrastructure. If we donâ€™t, U.S. industry, agriculture and labor will pay the price.â€
Grassley, a leader in the effort to get the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, was recognized by WCI â€œfor championing the improvement of our ports and commercial inland waterways system, like the Mississippi and Missouri rivers which make up Iowaâ€™s eastern and western borders.â€
Accepting the award at a reception and dinner in Washington, D.C., Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said that although the United States is the worldâ€™s largest agricultural exporting country, this country â€œhas the opportunity to even further expand its agricultural exports, and thus increase traffic on its waterways, by implementing trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
â€œThese agreements would provide major benefits for farmers in the Unites States, including those in Iowa. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, our trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, once fully implemented, could result in $2.5 billion additional U.S. farm exports each year.â€
Grassley said his â€œhighest trade priority this Congressâ€ is to implement trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
â€œYet the ball is in President Obamaâ€™s court,â€ the senator said. â€œHe has yet to send implementing bills for these agreements to Congress. Until he does so, Congress cannot vote to implement them.â€
Users board to review long-term waterways development plan
The Inland Waterways Capital Development Plan drafted by the Investment Strategy Team is scheduled to be featured in a report to be reviewed by the Inland Waterways Users Board at a meeting April 13 in Springfield, Va.
The team made up of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel and waterways industry representatives, including members of the users board, drafted recommendations to prioritize navigation projects and to improve the Corpsâ€™ project management and processes to deliver projects on time and on budget. In addition, the team, working on the plan for over a year, also recommended a 30- to 45-percent increase in the 20-cents-per-gallon fuel tax currently paid by the barge and towing industry. The fuel-tax increase would take the place of the lockage fee proposed by the Obama administration, but strongly opposed by the waterways industry and members of Congress.
Furthermore, the recommendations would continue the 50-50 (industry-federal) cost-sharing formula for new lock construction and major rehabilitation projects costing at least $100 million. Dam construction and repair, and smaller lock rehabilitation projects would be 100 percent federally funded.
At a gathering of reporters at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., March 8, Cornel Martin, president and CEO of Waterways Council Inc., said that stakeholders in government and within the industry â€œare strongly committed to this consensus-based long term capital plan that will help ensure that our country continues to derive the benefit from our energy-efficient, congestion-relieving waterways transportation system.â€ Martin said that the recommendations in the 20-year plan â€œurge funding parameters for the entire system rather than simply on a project-by-project basis and help improve the reliability of this critical transportation system.â€
Martin told the reporters that itâ€™s the waterway industryâ€™s hope that Congress will incorporate the final long-term capital plan, also endorsed late last year by the National Waterways Conference, within a new Water Resources Development Act this year.
Corps seen as slow to implement WRDA-2007 mandates
A report compiled by the Oversight and Investigations Majority Staff of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee criticizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for being â€œslow to implement the programmatic reforms and projectsâ€ in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007. The report also said the Corpsâ€™ efforts at implementation â€œhave been inadequate and inconsistent with the statute and congressional intent.â€
Among the issues examined by the report, which was prepared for the committee chairman, Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), were the Corpsâ€™ â€œfailure to follow its mitigation requirements and monitoring and its failure to submit larger and controversial project proposals to an independent review.â€
Furthermore, the report said, the Corps â€œfailed to improve the quality of modeling and analysis, to update its guidelines for project planning and implementation, and to streamline its project formulation and delivery process.â€
The staff report said that WRDA-2007 included â€œthe most sweeping reformsâ€ of how the Army Corps of Engineers plans, constructs, operates and maintains its projects and programs since WRDA-1986.
â€œHowever, rather than swiftly and enthusiastically embracing the reforms of WRDA-2007, the Corps has been slow in its implementation, and has often modified its implementation to fit its intended results at the expense of the language of the statute and congressional intent,â€ the report concluded.
As for independent review requirements, the staff report said the Corps did not appear to know which studies were subject to review five months after the requirements became law. The report said that the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works indicated recently that 263 projects were subject to review, but only 20 with an estimated cost greater than $45 million were currently underway. The report said that other data submitted by the assistant secretary indicated â€œa continuing lack of awareness of the status of WRDA-2007 implementation.â€
Mississippi River Commission sets four meetings for April
The Mississippi River Commission has scheduled four meetings next month aboard Mississippi V.
The meetings will be held April 12 at City Front, Cairo, Ill.; April 13 at Mud Island, Memphis, Tenn.; April 15 at City Front, Natchez, Miss., and April 16 at City Dock, Baton Rouge, La.
The agenda for each meeting will include each district commanderâ€™s overview of current project issues.
For more information, contact Stephen Gambrell at (601) 634-5766.
About the Author:
Carlo Salzano has been in journalism since graduating from La Salle University in 1948 as a chemistry major. That’s right, chemistry. He began his career as a copy boy at the Philadelphia Inquirer, before moving on to United Press International in Philadelphia, Charleston, West Virgina, Baltimore and Washington. After 14 years, Carlo joined Traffic World magazine and stayed on for 23 years, retiring as editor in 1990. A majority of Carloâ€™s time at Traffic World was spent covering the maritime community and he continued on in the maritime field while freelancing throughout his “retirement.” He is married and has three children and eight grandchildren.