WJ Editorial

Where Is The Dredging Money?

This issue of The Waterways Journal, with its theme of safety and environmental stewardship, shows a more expansive picture than usual of how the entire waterways community and its extended family promotes safety and preserves the waterways environment.

You will read about how Chad Pregracke’s volunteers in Living Lands and Waters went about their task of cleaning up the waterways during this spring’s flooding with little fanfare but with great results.

This issue also highlights the remarks of AWO President Tom Allegretti at an AWO safety meeting in Chicago, who noted that safety has become the core mission of the organization, uniting every other mission.

But there’s a part the federal government has to play in safety, Allegretti added, and that’s to provide sufficient funds to keep our waterways infrastructure maintained and in good condition. Because even if operators do everything they can to operate safely, aging and outdated infrastructure increases risks.

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That point was brought home by the unexpected and unscheduled shutdown of barge traffic on the Columbia / Snake system due to previously undetected damage to the concrete sill. The failure, which came at the height of the wheat harvest, reinforces the need for more money for the Corps to keep all of our locks and dams in good repair. The Corps said it doesn’t yet know what caused the failure, which wasn’t detected in a recent inspection.

On the rest of our inland rivers, the Corps continues to struggle with the aftereffects of this spring’s devastating flooding, shifting money from other desperately needed projects to deal with the greater than usual amount of surveying and dredging that the silt left behind.

Working closely with industry, the districts are performing heroically with limited resources. As a spokesman for the Little Rock Engineer District notes in this issue, Corps crews are becoming more adept at quickly preparing locks and dams for extreme high water and at returning them to duty after the waters recede.

There’s every likelihood that these types of flood events will become more frequent in the near future.

That’s why the continued failure of the Office of Management and Budget to release the desperately needed $100 million emergency funds for dredging and other aspects of flood response that was voted by Congress and signed by President Trump in June is inexplicable.

What can they possibly be waiting for?