Tenn-Tom Waterway Authority to Host Annual Conference

Operators, stakeholders and waterway managers from the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway will gather August 27–29 in Point Clear, Ala., at the Grand Hotel Marriott for the 37th annual Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Opportunities Conference.

The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Council hosts the annual conference, which features reports from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with state and federal political officials, business leaders and more.

The conference will get underway August 27 with a meeting of the Southeast river basin of Inland Rivers, Ports & Terminals Inc. An opening reception will follow that evening.

Day two of the conference will feature comments from Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who also serves as chairman of the four-state Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority, which also includes Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.

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“Kentucky is such an important part of a vast waterway system,” said Mitch Mays, administrator of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority. “Of course, Paducah is at the confluence of three rivers, the Tennessee, Cumberland and Ohio rivers. The waterways have a huge impact on business and industry in Kentucky, and Gov. Bevin has been a great advocate.”

Conference attendees will also hear from R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, who oversees the Corps of Engineers. Mays said the presentation from James will be quite timely, given stubborn high water and maintenance and dredging challenges on many of the nation’s waterways, including the Tenn-Tom.

“I’m sure there will be a lot of discussion on the Corps’ response to that issue,” Mays said. “And not only the response, but also how can we approach it now so it doesn’t happen in the future.”

As always, the Tenn-Tom conference will include reports from both the Mobile Engineer District and U.S. Coast Guard Sector Mobile. Conference attendees will hear from Brig. Gen. Dianna Holland, commander of the Corps’ South Atlantic Division; Col. Sebastian Joly, commander of the Mobile District; Wynne Fuller, operations division chief; and Justin Murphree, operations manager of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway will all address the group. The conference will also feature comments from Cap. LaDonn A. Allen, commander of Coast Guard Sector Mobile.

John Christy, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, will speak regarding climate trends and the impact of weather on the waterway. Mandy Gunasekara, a former official with the Environmental Protection Agency under the Trump Administration who now leads Energy45, will discuss land conservation, environmental and water management issues. In addition, Ashley Feng from the Center for New American Security will discuss the China Belt & Road Initiative, which involves China funding infrastructure projects around the world. Feng will also look at how the United States should respond.

As in years past, the conference will offer a silent auction to benefit the Agnes Zaiontz Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Transportation Museum, renamed earlier this year in honor of Zaiontz, the authority’s longtime office manager and a driving force behind the museum (WJ, July 8). Funds raised through this year’s silent auction will be donated to the museum in honor of Zaiontz, who passed away in May. The authority welcomes donations for the silent auction.

The conference will conclude with a 4-person golf scramble at nearby Lakewood Golf Club’s Dogwood Course.

Registration for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Opportunities Conference is available by phone, mail, email, fax or online. For registration details or to download a registration form, visit