Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway Association Announces Details For 2021 Meeting

The Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway Association (WTWA), the industry group representing commercial navigation along the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway (BWT), will hold its 71st annual meeting May 17–19 at the Marriott Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Ala., on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.

The association’s 2020 meeting, held in July last year, was one of the first waterway-related conferences held in person during the pandemic, with attendees socially distanced on site and many presenters speaking remotely. This year looks to be much closer to a traditional meeting, with COVID-19 precautions still in place, WTWA President Larry Merrihew said.

“This year, we are progressing and thinking we will be able to have the meeting with all in attendance, along with our speakers,” Merrihew said. “We are going to follow the state’s and the Grand Hotel’s guidelines about COVID precautions, i.e. social distancing, masks, etc.”

While the agenda is still in draft form, the conference will begin May 17 with a golf tournament, followed by a reception. Day two will feature reports from the Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has been invited to speak, and Merrihew also expects representatives from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and the Alabama State Port Authority to speak to attendees.

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“The remainder of that Tuesday will be presentations by leaders of the steel, coal and wood chip industries,” Merrihew said. “The next day, we will focus on inland ports, with updates from our sister waterways, and have a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as to their expectations for 2021, and our annual membership meeting.”

Merrihew stressed the importance of association members gathering together to discuss the status and future of the waterway.

“This program is important, as it will be the first time we have been able to all get together for networking and learning where we are in the economy as a result of the pandemic and how that might guide our plans for the rest of 2021,” he said.

Besides the golf tournament and social on May 17, the conference will feature both a luncheon and a banquet-style dinner May 18 at the Grant Hotel.

Merrihew said the past year on the BWT has been a challenge, much like on other waterways and across the nation in general. Still, there are reasons for optimism.

“The pandemic has had its impact on all our company operations, but we are beginning to see a sunrise,” he said. “The industry speakers should really give us the inside information that we can use for planning. Weather and the economy have certainly contributed much to problems, but on the better side of that is the fact that the Corps of Engineers was able to complete some major maintenance items that should not have to be addressed in the near future.”

Merrihew said attendees should also look for Corps officials at the WTWA annual meeting to offer a look forward to a 30-day lock closure planned for the waterway this year.

For conference registration and sponsorship details, contact the Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway Association by phone at 251-431-9055 or by email at A block of rooms at the Marriott Grand Hotel is available starting at $189 per night. For hotel reservations, contact the hotel by phone at 1-855-999-0490 or online at Use access code “warrioratt21.”