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Making gains with deeper, navigable waters on the Intracoastal waterway

by BoatUS 28 Mar 2023 17:04 UTC
AIWA board members from BoatUS, NMMA, and representatives from shipyards and dredging companies met with and Rep. Jen Kiggans (VA) (4th from R) to focus on ensuring safe navigation on the Intracoastal Waterway © BoatUS

Waters have been getting deeper, improving navigation, safety and vessel access along the 1,100-plus-mile Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway since Congress began investing in the waterway as a continuous system across state boundaries and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Districts. Before the waterway was recognized as Marine Highway 95 by the U.S. Department of Transportation, severe shoaling and thin waters in certain locations were threatening safe navigation and the passage of vessels.

Since 2016, the estimated $120 million bill for dredging costs to return the waterway to its originally authorized width and depth has been halved, with projects completed from New Jersey to Florida. More recently, the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL, formerly known as the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act) delivered $20.25 million in additional funding for upland placement area maintenance in North Carolina. BIL will also fund an additional $7.47 million in New Jersey dredging projects.

The job isn't done, however, and at the recent annual fly-in to meet with Congressional representatives, in Washington, D.C., Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association board members (AIWA) stressed efforts needed to address the still-significant backlog of unmet dredging needs.

"AIWA's efforts showing the importance of continued commercial and recreational vessel activity along America's Marine Highway 95 is having an impact," said AIWA executive director Brad Pickel, "But there is still work to do."

More recent waterway funding projects have addressed the need for important maintenance on upland areas where dredge material is deposited. "Without these upland locations we cannot continue to dredge and keep the channel clear," said Pickel.

Joining AIWA in Capitol Hill legislator and staff discussions were representatives from Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), National Marine Manufacturers Association, and other AIWA board members.

BoatUS Government Affairs manager and AIWA board member David Kennedy added, "In the last 10 years, we have done a good job helping the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers identify unmet dredging needs. We want to ensure evolving trouble spots are also identified."

Pickel, Kennedy and other AIWA board members met with 12 congressional offices including Reps. Nancy Mace (SC), Jen Kiggans (VA), Buddy Carter (GA) and Greg Murphy, M.D. (NC). "We greatly appreciate these legislators who are looking out for the waterway," added Kennedy.

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