Pamela Glass is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for WorkBoat. She reports on the decisions and deliberations of congressional committees and federal agencies that affect the maritime industry, including the Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Prior to coming to WorkBoat, she covered coastal, oceans and maritime industry news for 15 years for newspapers in coastal areas of Massachusetts and Michigan for Ottaway News Service, a division of the Dow Jones Company. She began her newspaper career at the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times. A native of Massachusetts, she is a 1978 graduate of Wesleyan University (Conn.). She currently resides in Potomac, Md.
The waterways continue to crumble
March 14, 2013
The poor state of the nation’s infrastructure, and the
inability of Washington to develop a viable funding plan to address it,
continues to worry the industries that depend on waterways, from corn growers
to dredging companies.
In addition to being far behind in repairing and maintaining
locks and dams, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also overwhelmed by demands
for dredging waterways and harbors.
“The Corps has evaluated coastal dredging needs and will
need $3 billion to respond to all navigation projects in the United States that
have been federally authorized,” Barry Holliday, executive director, Dredging Contractors of America, said
at the USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum held in Arlington, Va., in February. “We
have a system in place operating at much less than the needs, and the best
example of the challenges facing the Corps is the Lower Mississippi River.
Prior to the drought, the Corps needed $180 million for the Southwest pass and
lower portion to keep it at project depth. The Corps didn’t have this, so had
to get supplemental funding. As a result, it is always behind.”
Expanding exports will be another casualty of poor infrastructure
spending, Holliday said. President Obama’s promise to double U.S. exports won’t
be possible if ports aren’t dredged to accommodate the expanded export trade.
“If we can’t keep the channels reliable with today’s ships,
there’s no way we can maintain our competitiveness edge in the world markets,”
Holliday said. “We are in a maritime denial in this country. We’re politicizing
the situation and subjecting ourselves to huge economic losses if we don’t step
up to the plate. We don’t want to go down to two modes of transportation —
truck and rails. Who thinks that railroad and truck rates would stay the same?”