You’ve heard it before. Lock and dam structures are crumbling along the Upper Miss. River. But over the past several years, industry and government entities have worked hard to repair the most significant locks and dams problems to keep cargo moving efficiently along the system. Finishing these navigation projects could mean as much as $1 billion in new job income annually.

That’s one of the messages that Michael Toohey, president and CEO, Waterways Council Inc. delivered to his audience earlier this week during WorkBoat’s Professional Summit: Future of the Inland Waterways. That piece of news comes from a 2014 joint study conducted by the universities of Kentucky and Tennessee.

Toohey also said that the system by which the Corps of Engineers’ projects are funded is flawed and that the Corps has no plan in place to handle the additional cargo that experts predict will be making its way onto the system in coming years. “The Corps is not doing any planning for more cargo coming into the system in the future,” he said.

Joshua Sebastian, engineering manager, The Shearer Group, said use of liquefied natural gas as a fuel for inland vessels will become more common in the future, but there are still concerns about tankage placement on the boats. “Currently, the tanks have to be placed on deck, and that creates stability and other problems,” he said.

Eric Livingston, vice president, GATX Corp., said the building of tank barges is definitely slowing after several years of record newbuild construction, and Brent Dibner, President, Dibner Maritime Associates, said the barge industry will encounter spurts of growth in the future rather than a continuous pattern of growth.

Once the discussion moved to Subchapter M and the inspection of vessels heretofore uninspected, everyone seemed to agree that they are tired of talking about it and want the Coast Guard to publish the Final Rule already. Will wishing make it so?

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.