Matt Woodruff, a member of the Inland Waterways Users Board, the Waterways Council Board of Directors, and Director- Government Affairs for Kirby Corporation in Houston, Texas, testified before the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works about the essential value of the waterways system to the nation’s economy, jobs and America’s continued competitiveness. He specifically addressed the Inland Waterways Capital Development Plan, a comprehensive, consensus-based package of recommendations formulated by an industry and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers working group to improve the reliability of the U.S. inland navigation system and its infrastructure over the next 20 years.
Last April, the final report and recommendations of the Capital Development Plan were ratified unanimously by the Users Board and submitted to Congress. If adopted, this plan would better address the needs of the entire inland navigation system and provide more efficient funding for critically needed waterways infrastructure improvements that also benefit non-transportation users and the nation as a whole. The waterways system provides stable pools of water for industrial, municipal and agricultural use, creates recreational opportunities and enhances property values along waterfronts.
Modern commercial lock and dam infrastructure is critical to U.S. competitiveness in the world market, to environmental protection, to energy efficiency, to the sustainment of well-paying American jobs and to congestion relief. America’s inland waterways are a precious resource, and the envy of the world because of the natural “water highway” the waterways system provides for domestic and export commerce.
Specifically, the Inland Waterways Capital Development Plan:
• proposes a national prioritized list of navigation projects based on objective criteria such as economic benefit and project condition;
• offers a path forward to more efficiently completing 25 navigation projects in six years rather than just six projects under the current broken business model, better utilizing tax-payer dollars and completing projects on time and on budget;
• seeks standardization and design centers of expertise;
• creates jobs and allows for increasing exports to market.
“The inland waterway modernization challenge going forward is the need to create and implement an improved program for the future. We have an aging system that needs recapitalization. We have a project funding and delivery system that is too inefficient, resulting in much wasted time and money. While we now have invested the surplus in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, that has resulted in too few finished projects. And all of this comes in the face of an unprecedented economic crisis that is severely stressing our waterway industry and the nation,” Woodruff testified.
“What’s at stake if we turn our back on our waterways? If we’re prepared to turn off the lights in portions of America, stop feeding the world, cripple our manufacturing base and deprive consumers of essential goods and services, we can stop worrying about the waterways,” he continued.
To date, the Capital Development Plan is supported by more than 200 industry stakeholders including national organizations, state, regional and local organizations, and companies. Among those which have endorsed the plan are the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, American Land Conservancy, National Corn Growers Association, National Grain & Feed Association, Steel Manufacturers Association, National Mining Association, National Council of Farm Cooperatives, and many others from diverse segments of the waterways transportation industry.
The complete list of supporters can be found online (www.waterwayscouncil.org).