The National Waterways Conference’ is a 40-year-old association of waterways interests, mostly in the navigation field, including waterways shippers, carriers, ports, marine services and river valley associations joined together to encourage a better understanding of the public value of the American waterways system.
Specifically, the Conference is working to promote sound and far-sighted national waterways policies and to assure adequate funding for the Army Corps of Engineers’ entire civil works program’a bigger pie, if you will, to enable the Corps to keep its on-going construction on schedule, maintain locks and channels without adding to the current backlog, and initiate a few new meritorious projects.
Congratulations for organizing the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association. It’ s long overdue! On the Gulf Coast, by contrast, the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association was founded in 1905, and it has played no small part in promoting the GIWW’s construction and the growth and development which followed, as well as its regular maintenance and modernization.
You need the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association, and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterways Association needs you.
Which brings me to the point of these remarks:
Maintain the AIWW.
Promote the AIWW.
Use the AIWW.
Or else, you may lose it! Lose it? That’s not an idle threat.
Only two weeks ago, an official of the Environmental Defense Fund, Tim Searchinger, Senior Attorney, testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in Washington. He lashed out at Congress for continuing to maintain high-cost, little-used waterways. So have spokesmen for several other environmental and taxpayer groups.
They routinely neglect to mention the role which the AIWW and other low-volume waterways play in fostering local and regional economic development, in encouraging fuel efficient water transportation putting less pollutants into the atmosphere, in relieving highway congestion, in restraining rail rates, in providing national defense benefits, and in serving water recreation-related activities benefiting tens of thousands of people along the Atlantic Coast and milIions throughout the Nation.
The value of a waterway must be measured in more ways than just the tonnage which it carries.
Commercial traffic plying the AIWV pays a fuel tax of 20 cents per gallon, but the tax proceeds go into a trust fund which finances one-half of shallow-draft construction costs. But the AIWW had no current construction projects. You need maintenance funds, which come out of a different pot.
On the deep-draft channels leading into ports like Savannah, the waterborne commerce funds 100% of the cost of maintaining authonzed depths and widths. This has been the case since 1991, when the ad valorem tax on exports, imports and domestic cargo first imposed in 1987 was increased to cover all maintenance outlays. The export portion of the tax has been declared unconstitutional, and the Administration is now trying to substitute a new “harbor services” fee on ship operators. Ports oppose such user fees and instead favor a return to general fund financing for maintenance of port access channels.
Harbor financing was the subject of the Congressional hearing two weeks ago when the EDF witness testified about operation and maintenance (O&M) of little-used inland waterways. The committee chairman, Congr. Bud Shuster (Pennsylvania) wants a “dedicated fund” set up to finance deep-draft channel maintenance, and this issue is certain to be debated, with some intensity, in the next Congressional session and maybe for several years to come.
How the maintenance of deep-draft shipping lanes is ultimately financed is very important because it may influence future policy for fimding shallow-draft waterways like AIWW. For now, however, all the funding is Federal. That’s good, but there is also a flip side.
It is good because shallow-dra~ commerce is not burdened with higher user taxes for maintenance. You m