Waterways industry readies new funding plan

Waterways industry readies new funding plan

The barge and towing industry plans to be ready by the end of the year with a new plan to fund construction and maintenance of locks and dams on the nation’s inland waterway system.

Interviewed after a press briefing on waterway revenue issues June 24 in Washington, D.C., Cornel J. Martin, president and CEO of Waterways Council Inc. (WCI), said that his organization is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Inland Waterways Users Board “to develop a long-term funding mechanism that’s going to provide a revenue stream to upgrade the system for the long-haul.

“So we’re looking to develop a 20-year capital development plan that’s going to look at the long-term needs of the entire inland waterway system, figure out how much it’s going to cost, and figure out a way to pay for it over the long-term.â€

The WCI executive said that representatives of the three groups are focusing on “a multitude of options, including infrastructure needs, bonding, and fuel tax.â€

Whatever the industry may be considering, one thing is sure: The options will not include the administration’s proposed lockage fee.

“We see lockage fees as a disincentive,†Martin said. “We don’t want to see a lockage fee because we think it penalizes certain segments of the river where you have a lot of infrastructure. We rather look at the system as a whole rather than pitting one section of the system against another.â€

Martin believes that the White House favors lockage fees as a source of money. “I think they are just trying to derive more revenue and they haven’t looked at other options. At a time when the president is asking our citizens to be more environmentally conscious and more fuel efficient, they are trying to tax the one mode of transportation that’s the most environmentally sound, the most fuel efficient,†Martin said. “It just doesn’t make sense.â€

Towboats move more cargo per gallon of fuel

The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) at Texas A&M University has determined that compared with trucks and railroads, inland towboats move the most cargo per gallon of fuel — 576 ton-miles per gallon. Therefore, TTI said, inland towboats produce the least amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per ton-mile, delivering some 52,000 ton-miles of cargo movement for each ton of carbon dioxide emitted.

On the other hand, TTI said, trucks can produce only 155 ton-miles of cargo movement per gallon of fuel and can deliver only 14,000 ton-miles of cargo movement for each ton of CO2 produced. Railroads move 413 ton-miles of cargo per gallon of fuel, allowing them to deliver about 37,000 ton-miles of cargo per ton of CO2 produced.

TTI said that since emissions of carbon dioxide per gallon of fuel burned are roughly the same for each mode, the comparison focused on how much cargo gets moved for that gallon of fuel. The research team determined that compared to inland barge transportation, rail transport generates 39 percent more CO2 and trucking generates 371 percent more CO2.

Acting for the National Waterways Foundation (NWF), TTI added research on greenhouse gas emissions to its 2007 study, “A Modal Comparison of Domestic Freight Transportation Effects on the General Public.â€

The foundation said that if TTI’s numbers are put in perspective, they will show that the cargo moved by barge in 2005, the year of the study, would have resulted in an additional 2.1 million tons of CO2 in the atmosphere if moved by rail, and an additional 14.2 million tons if moved by truck.

Corps, not EPA, held proper permitting agency

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 22 that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the authority to issue permits for mining-discharge waste under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

The 6-3 ruling, seen by the National Waterways Conference as a setback for environmental groups, held that the Corps, and not the Environmental Protection Agency, is the appropriate permitting agency under the law.

The law provides two programs for permitting discharges into waterways. Under Section 404, the Corps issues discharge permits for “fill material,†while the EPA can issue permits for discharges of all other pollutants subject to limits prescribed in sections 301 and 306. 

The new high court decision reverses a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which said that the Corps had misapplied Section 404. The Supreme Court held that the Corps not only has the authority to issue the permits, but that it does so properly.

Bill would create maritime career training loans

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, has introduced a bill directing the Transportation Secretary to establish a program that would make maritime career training loans available to eligible students who want to be trained as U.S. mariners. Under the bill (H.R. 2651 Maritime Workforce Development Act), the secretary also would designate maritime training institutions at which loans that are made under the program may be used.

The bill provides that the secretary may not make loans to a student under the program in an amount that exceeds $15,000 in a calendar year or $60,000 in the aggregate. The bill would authorize an appropriation of $10 million for each of fiscal years 2010 through 2015.

Panel studying Missouri River needs stakeholder members

The Northwestern Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is soliciting applications to fill vacant stakeholder representative member positions on the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee (MRRIC).

The committee was formed to advise the Corps on a study of the Missouri River and its tributaries and to provide guidance to the Corps with respect to the Missouri River recovery and mitigation activities currently underway.

The agency must receive completed applications no later than July 31. Application forms may be obtained online (www.MRRIC.org) or from and mailed to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District (Attn: MRRIC), 1616 Capitol Ave., Omaha, NE, 68102-4901. They also may be e-mailed to info@mrric.org. Put MRRIC in the subject line.

For more information, contact Mary S. Roth at (402) 995-2919.

Five navigation projects de-authorized

Five navigation projects were among 27 de-authorized in March pursuant to provisions of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 (WRDA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported July 2.

The five projects include the deepening of Baltimore Harbor and channels in Maryland and Virginia to 50 feet.

Also de-authorized was work in New York Harbor and adjacent channels, Claremont Terminal, N.J.; Columbia River, Seafarers Memorial, Hammond, Ore.; Narragansett Town Beach, Narragansett, R.I., and Quonset Point, Davisville, R.I.

As provided by WRDA, the secretary of the Army must submit to Congress a biennial list of water resources projects and separable elements of projects for which no funds have been obligated for planning, design or construction during the prior seven full fiscal years.

If funds are not obligated within 30 months from the date the list was submitted, the project/separable elements are de-authorized.

For more information, contact Agnes W. Chen at (202) 761-4175.

Missouri River ready for full navigation season

The Army Corps of Engineers reported July 7 that for the first time in nearly a decade, water levels in the Missouri River basin were near normal. Sufficient runoff from rain and snow has refilled all but one of the river reservoirs and provided for a full length, full service 2009 commercial navigation season, the Corps said.

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, before retiring as editor in 1990. A majority of Carlo’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.

By Professional Mariner Staff