The roadblock has been broken. The Defense Department, which oversees the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has finally made appointments to the Inland Waterways Users Board after a bureaucratic hang-up closed down the panel for almost a year.
The board is important to the inland waterways industry, as it recommends construction, rehab and spending priorities for inland navigation projects. The panel also drafted the Capital Development Plan, which proposes major reforms in how federal waterways projects are funded and delivered and is now being considered by Congress.
DoD says that representatives to the IWUB have been approved to serve an interim one-year term, from Feb. 23, 2012 to Feb. 23, 2013.
After that, board members will no longer be appointed as special government employees – this was the sticky point for DoD lawyers who invoked government procedures stipulating who can serve on federal advisory boards. In the past, waivers were provided so waterways shippers and carriers could serve in accordance with the 1986 Waterways Resource Development Act, which recreated the board.
The new rules will allow inland companies already listed to nominate a person to represent them on the Board for two-year terms. DoD says the 11-member board must be balanced to represent different regions of the country and the diversity of the industry, but some worry the Upper Mississippi region will be excluded since it is not on DoD’s company list.
“While we would have liked to have been more involved in the process to select/appoint the reps, at least we are moving forward on it,” said Debra Colbert, spokeswoman for the Waterways Council Inc.
It’s not yet clear when the board will meet, but it should be soon. There’s a lot to discuss, especially now that cost overruns at Olmsted Lock and Dam have been estimated at $800 million and the project will cost nearly $3 billion and take10 more years to complete.