Tenn-Tom Stakeholders To Gather For 40th Annual Conference

Stakeholders of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (Tenn-Tom) have gathered 39 times previously for an annual conference devoted to infrastructure, operations and economic development of the waterway. Their 40th annual meeting will take place August 10–12 at the Grand Hotel Marriott in Point Clear, Ala.

The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority is a four-state compact that includes representatives from Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee—the states with direct connections to the Tenn-Tom Waterway and the Tennessee River. The governors from each state appoint representatives to the authority, with one of the governors serving as chairman each year. Mitch Mays serves as administrator of the authority and president of the Tenn-Tom Waterway Council, which acts as a liaison between commercial users of the waterway, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard.

It’s been 64 years since Congress established the authority, 38 years since the council began and 37 years since the waterway opened to commercial navigation, and over that time, the Tenn-Tom has proven its worth to the four states and the nation, Mays said.

“What this shows is how important waterway transportation is to the country,” Mays said. “You’re talking about a waterway that connects 23 different states through the Port of Mobile. Things that affect Mississippi and Alabama also affect Kentucky and Tennessee. Things affecting Kentucky and Tennessee also affect Mississippi and Alabama. There’s definitely a synergy between these four states, and they recognized decades ago the importance of working together to support the Tenn-Tom and make sure it’s a working waterway.

Sign up for Waterway Journal's weekly newsletter.Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest inland marine news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.

“Ultimately, it gets back to economic development, business and jobs,” he added.

Conference Agenda

This year’s conference will begin with a golf tournament at Lakewood Golf Club’s Dogwood course on August 10. That afternoon, Inland Rivers, Ports & Terminals (IRPT) will hold its South East River Basin meeting at the Grand. The day concludes with a reception bayside at the hotel’s grand ballroom patio.

Day two of the conference will begin with Loren Scott, retired professor, who will offer an update on the state of the economy, particularly from a Southern perspective.

“He understands the Southern economy very well,” Mays said. “We’re hoping to get an update from him on how inflation and the potential for a recession are impacting the states the Tenn-Tom serves.”

Next up will be Brig. Gen. Jason Kelly, outgoing commander of the Corps’ South Atlantic Division. A more extensive report from the Mobile and Nashville engineer districts and the operations managers for the Tenn-Tom Waterway and the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway will follow on day three of the conference.

Dan Keown, general manager of Steel Dynamics Inc.’s Columbus, Miss., operation, will then speak on manufacturing and cargo transport on the waterway. Conference attendees will also hear from Charles Scott, mayor of Aberdeen, Miss.; Neil Schaffer Engineering’s Kevin Stafford; and Bruce Lambert and Tim Pickering from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration, who will speak on leveraging grants for port development in Aberdeen.

“This is an economic development project for them,” Mays said. “I think this is going to be really good information on how they’re using MarAd funding to support the port there.”

Aberdeen’s port area is located just below Aberdeen Lock and Dam on the right descending bank.

“I give a lot of credit to the mayor,” Mays said. “He’s been very aggressive looking for ways to reinvigorate any industrial assets the city has to offer. He recognized very early on the port is not being used as it should be. He’s leaning forward, doing everything he can to recruit business and industry to Aberdeen and also support existing business and industry.”

Afternoon sessions for day one of the conference will include a look at the potential spread of Asian carp to the waterway; a congressional panel made up of three representatives from Alabama and one from Mississippi; and a presentation from Brad Collett, associate professor at the University of Tennessee, who is developing “Tennessee Riverline,” a planned recreational trail that will extend the length of the Tennessee River.

Dinner the night of August 11 will feature Hank Ingram, who will tell the story of O.H. Ingram River Aged Whiskey.

Besides the report from Corps officials, day three of the conference will feature a report from the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency’s Jason Burt, who will discuss cybersecurity threats to inland waterway users and what users can do to defend against cyber threats. Capt. Ulysses Mullins, the newly appointed commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Mobile, will address Tenn-Tom Waterway stakeholders for the first time. Finally, the conference will close with remarks from Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, this year’s chairman of the Tenn-Tom Waterway Development Authority.

For more information on the 2022 Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Conference and for registration details, visit