THE WATERWAYS JOURNAL    December 19, 2011
WJ Editorial
As Deadlines Near, NWC Reiterates Waterway Needs - The Waterways Journal - 19 December 2011

With crucial budget deadlines drawing nearer with every breath, National Waterways Conference president Amy W. Larson appeared December 12 before the National Research Council Committee on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Science, Engineering and Planning to reiterate critical waterway needs of the United States.
Two common themes permeated her remarks. First, "The benefits provided by the Corps' water resources projects are essential and far exceed the cost of construction. operation, and maintenance," Larson said, "We need to find ways to provide continued funding and [to] reverse the trend of starving the civil works budget to the point of disrepair."
Second, "As we identify and define the Corps' various missions, we must emphasize the agency's core competencies and comparative advantage and, farther, that in many areas the Corps is the sole federal provider of critical functions such as flood damage reduction and navigation. If the civil works program is to continue to exist — and surely it must — then we must provide the Corps the tools it needs to perform its central function: the construction, operation, and maintenance of water-resource projects for multiple public benefits, including navigation. flood control, hydropower. recreation, conservation, and water supply."
We must all acknowledge the importance of echoing repeatedly what members of Congress need to know. Our hope is that they, ton, will acknowledge it. As Larson made clear. "Reliable. well-maintained water resources infrastructure is fundamental to America's economic and environmental well-being, and is essential to maintaining our competitive position within the glob-al economy." And readers have all heard that before. too. But Larson's presentation contains numerous waterway-related facts that do not get disseminated as often as those about which we have written. So let us proceed to data that can be useful in further working to convince congressional delegates of the importance of the issue. We must remember that demands on the Corps are increasing while the agency's budget flounders.
•    Water infrastructure investments are investments in our nation's long-term security.
•    There are 692 dams and more than 11,000 miles of levees, which together prevent an average of $22 billion each year in damages for a return on the nation's investment of more than ST for each dollar spent. This year alone, the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project prevented $108 billion in damages, Larson said. It is one of the most successful public works projects in the history of the U.S.
•    Fully 238 lock chambers, 12,000 miles of maintained
waterways and 926 harbors combine to handle 2.2 billion tons of cargo and foreign commerce valued at $1.156 trillion.
•    The Corps provides 68 billion kilowatt hours of power generation worth S4 billion in gross revenue, and which is 24 percent of U.S. hydropower and 3 percent of total U.S. electric capacity.
•    Corps facilities have more outdoor recreational visits each year than any other single provider  - more even than the National Park Service.
•    Corps reservoirs provide 9.76 million acre-feet of municipal and industrial water supply storage.
As it relates to navigation:
•    More than 95 percent of our imports and exports move through the nation's harbors. Waterborne commerce generates $3.15 trillion annually, supporting more than 13 million jobs.
•    The cost of transporting freight via waterways is two to three times less than other transport modes, thus saving American businesses S7 billion annually. Even when customers chose other modes, the availability of water transport exerts pressure to lower rates.
•    In addition to being economically efficient and environmentally sound, capacity is an important issue. Placing the capacity of a single standard barge at 1,500 tons, a 15-barge tow can move 22,500 tons, or the equivalent of 22.5 100-ton rail cars or 562.5 tractor trailers, each with a 40-ton capacity The use of rail and trucks produce increased emissions and, with trucks, in-creased congestion and safety concerns.
•    Some 600 million tons of domestic cargo move across the waterways annually, including 50 percent of the nation's grain for export, 20 percent of coal, and 22 percent of petroleum and related products.
•    The president has set a goal of doubling U.S. exports from 2010 to 2015, a goal that is essential for economic growth but one that cannot be reached without an efficient and effective transportation system.
Larson emphasized that if we fail to maintain waterways infrastructure, we will eventually lose traffic on the rivers. "As the Corps develops its operations and maintenance plans and bud-get forecasts, it should use a scenario-based approach and assess the risks of not improving our locks," Larson said.
The U.S. is not budgeting nearly enough money for waterways infrastructure. If we allow the waterways system to continue to deteriorate we will not be able to keep with competitors.

And we have to conclude that isn't a situation that President Obama wants.