The federal budget for 2009 released by President Bush last week shows a discouraging step backward for one of the nation's most critical waterways, according to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association (AIWA).
The $2.2 million in the White House budget for the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the ICW through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida ignores serious navigation risks that commercial and recreational users of the 1,200-mile water highway face every day, and “threatens its very future,” the association said.
“The budget is a token amount, given that the Army Corps needs approximately $30 million to properly maintain the waterway,” said David Roach, AIWA chairman and executive director of the Florida Inland Navigation District. “The nation's waterways have been ignored for far too long and the American people already suffer the consequences of neglecting critical infrastructure. The lack of maintenance funding will be catastrophic to the economies of every state along the waterway unless Congress steps in and dramatically increases the President's proposal as it did last year.”
Roach said the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway brings over $18 billion annually to the state of Florida alone. Studies have shown that the four other states also gain tremendous economic benefit from the waterway, and that using barges to transport commercial goods up and down the East Coast would save significantly on shipping costs.
“It reduces highway congestion while being the most environmentally sustainable mode of transportation,” said Stephen Furlough, president of Furlough Marine Management and AIWA director, in a recent report. “Instead of cutting funds for maintenance, the White House should be looking at ways to better use this waterway to serve the nation.”
AIWA Executive Director Rosemary Lynch echoed Furlough’s sentiments, stating this is a perfect example of Short Sea Shipping.
“This U.S. Dept. of Transportation initiative would create a more efficient shipping system and the East Coast, using the waterway, would be an excellent place to begin,” said Lynch in the report. “It just makes good economic and environmental sense.”
— Elizabeth Ellis