Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association To Hold 117th Annual Seminar August 3–5
Stakeholders of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) and members of the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association (GICA) will gather in New Orleans August 3–5 for the association’s 117th annual seminar. The event will be held at the Westin New Orleans hotel, near where Canal Street meets the Mississippi River.
The three-day event will start with a morning golf tournament at Lakewood Golf Club on the west bank of the river in the Algiers neighborhood. GICA’s board of directors will meet in the afternoon of August 3, followed by a welcome reception in the hotel’s Riverbend Ballroom.
Day two of the seminar will open with an address by Rear Adm. Richard Timme, commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District. Afterward, Dustin Davidson, director of government relations for Waterways Council Inc., will offer a “Washington Perspective” on infrastructure funding and the current regulatory environment.
“GICA enjoys a very close relationship with Waterways Council Inc., and we bring them down every year to give us some insight into what they’re seeing inside the beltway,” said GICA President Paul Dittman. “I’ve asked them specifically to speak to recent progress that’s been made with the IHNC Lock replacement and also discussions regarding funding to restart the Bayou Sorrel Lock replacement project.”
Focus will then turn to management and operation of bridges that cross the GIWW, with Doug Blakemore, bridge administrator for the Eighth Coast Guard District, addressing the group.
“During my tenure over the past year, movable bridges have been a concern,” Dittman said. “I felt it would be very beneficial for our membership to fully understand the Coast Guard’s role as it relates to the oversight and management of movable and fixed bridges throughout the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.”
Earlier this spring, for example, the Black Bayou and Grand Lake bridges near Calcasieu Lock in southwest Louisiana both experienced some operational limitations that led to vessel queues on the waterway.
Next on the agenda, Gretchen Brown from the Galveston Engineer District will discuss the GIWW Coastal Resilience Study for Texas, which focused on the segment of the waterway in Brazoria and Matagorda counties.
“This area includes Caney Creek, approximately Mile Marker 420 west of Harvey Lock, which has been an area of chronic shoaling over the past few years,” Dittman said. “The Corps of Engineers will provide an update and overview of their proposed actions to address the chronic shoaling. This will be of interest to folks running on the west canal in that area.”
The morning sessions August 4 will conclude with a look back at the impacts Hurricane Ida had on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Louisiana.
“Ida was epic,” Dittman said. “My understanding is it was the single largest closure of the intracoastal waterway in at least the recent past if not ever. The amount of debris and sedimentation and the challenges to reopen the waterway—in my discussions with the Corps, they indicated they’d never seen anything like it. I believe the response to the shoaling by the Corps was exceptional, and I want to provide them the opportunity to highlight their efforts to reopen the waterway as quickly as possible.’”
Lunch on August 4 will feature an address from U.S. Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
After lunch, attendees will have the chance to hear from the commanders who lead the Galveston, New Orleans and Mobile Engineer Districts. This will be Mobile District Commander Col. Jeremy Chapman’s second GICA seminar, and this will be Col. Stephen Murphy’s final seminar as commander of the New Orleans District. The panel will include a new face this year with Col. Rhett Blackmon, who recently succeeded Col. Timothy Vail as commander of Galveston District.
Dittman noted that each of the Corps districts will be featured in its own session throughout day two of the seminar. The New Orleans District-focused session is the Hurricane Ida reflection, and for Galveston, it’s the Coastal Resilience Story session. For Mobile District, the focus will be potential marina expansion on the Foley Land Cut portion of the GIWW in Alabama.
Day two afternoon sessions will also include a panel focused on trauma and mariner wellness. The Rev. Tom Rhoades, chaplain with Seamen’s Church Institute, will lead that discussion.
Day three of the 117th GICA seminar will start with the annual membership business meeting. Following that, attendees will hear from Vessel Traffic Service directors from VTS Lower Mississippi River, Port Arthur, Berwick Bay and Houston. The morning will also feature a U.S. Coast Guard commanders panel that will include captains of the port from Coast Guard Sectors Corpus Christi, Houston, New Orleans and Mobile and Marine Safety Units Port Arthur and Houma.
The seminar will conclude with the ever-popular and lively towboat operator panel, moderated by David Abney, GICA board member and co-founder and CEO of Reliant Maritime Solutions.
The full seminar schedule and registration details are available online at www.gicaonline.com/events.