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Georgia needs funds to dredge ICW

The state received no money for dredging last year, despite the waterway’s 2.5-foot depth in spots

The state received no money for dredging last year, despite the waterway’s 2.5-foot depth in spots

Georgia is on the mind of Intracoastal Waterway advocates who have asked the state’s congressional delegation to get busy finding money in Washington to dredge the so-called “ditch.”

The other four states along the 1,088-mile waterway — Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida — have managed over the last three years to get millions of dollars in federal funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge in their segments, according to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association. Georgia, the group says, got no money in 2005 and only $342,000 the previous two years. The result, according to the AIWA, is shoaling to as little as 2.5 feet in some locations along Georgia’s approximately 140-mile stretch of ICW.

“Without [dredging funds] the waterway in Georgia is absolutely going to close in some places,” says Rosemary Lynch, AIWA executive director. The AIWA in December passed a resolution at its annual meeting aimed at getting the Georgia congressman whose district encompasses all of the ICW in the state to “seek full funding” for the Engineers for dredging.

“The problem, it’s complicated because we’ve got a war going on and we had a horrible hurricane season,” says Lynch. “But we also have the congressman in Georgia [whose] whole entire district is along the waterway and he is on the [Congressional] Appropriations Committee. You would think we could get some help from him, but that hasn’t happened.”

That congress member, Republican Jack Kingston, didn’t respond to requests made to his Washington office for an interview.

The AIWA says the Engineers needed an estimated $70 million in 2005 to maintain the ICW at its authorized depth of 12 feet at mean low water. Of that amount, $19.2 was needed in Georgia, while Florida required $30 million, North Carolina $11 million, South Carolina $6 million and Virginia $4 million.

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is 65 years old. The AIWA is a coalition of interested parties formed in 1999 “to assure that the long-neglected waterway would receive the attention it was promised in 1938,” when it was authorized, according to information on the group’s Web site. One member of the coalition is BoatU.S. Ryck Lydecker, the BoatU.S. representative in the AIWA, says there is never enough money for dredging but that some states have begun to recognize the problem.

“Florida is the leader in keeping the waterway open,” he says. The state created special taxing districts to generate funds, says Lydecker, “because they know they’re not going to get enough out of Congress.” He says North Carolina officials “have recognized the importance of the waterway and have come up with state funds” to supplement federal money. One congress member from that state, Democrat Mike Mac-Intyre, created a Congressional Waterway Caucus, he says.

“We’d like to see other states adopt that approach, and so far we’ve not had a lot of success in Georgia,” Lydecker says.

Lynch says AIWA members have met with Georgia’s Kingston without results. “[In 1999] we started sending letters to Congressman Kingston, meeting with his staff about the problem in the ICW,” she says. “Every year, we’ve done this again. I’ve brought people from his district who own marinas. We’ve sat with him personally, opened up maps. His statement is he didn’t really know it was a problem, and by the time he found out about it, it was too late to do anything about it. That kind of fueled our frustration, and that was why we decided to issue this resolution.”

Lynch says the Engineers has identified 27 locations in Georgia where the depth in the ICW at low tide is between 2.5 and 7 feet. “[Conditions] will only get worse until eventually the waterway will become impassable in several sections,” she says. “You can imagine the impact this will have on shipping and snowbirds. Florida stands to lose the most if boaters can’t get through Georgia.”