Capitol Currents Newsletter

Strong FY20 Energy & Water Development Appropriations Bill Passes

December 19, 2019

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Capitol Currents Newsletter
December 19, 2019

This is a text-only version of Waterways Council’s newsletter, Capitol Currents.  To read the full PDF version, including all images, please click here.


TOP HOLIDAY GIFT: Strong FY20 Energy & Water Development Appropriations Bill Passes


WITH A LOOMING DECEMBER 20 DEADLINE on a second short-term Continuing Resolution (C.R.) that was funding the Federal government, House and Senate appropriators worked feverishly to pass all 12 appropriations bills, including the Energy & Water Development (E&WD) Appropriations bill that funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


The “Big 4” – House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) – announced on December 12 that a “deal in principle” had been reached, and the House voted 297-120 on December 17 to approve two minibus spending bills that included E&WD. The Senate followed on December 19, passing the bill by a vote of 71 to 23.


The FY20 E&WD bill provides strong funding of $7.65 billion for the Corps’ Civil Works mission, $652 million above the FY19 enacted level and $2.69 billion above the President’s FY20 budget request.


A significant provision in the final bill is to once again adjust the cost-share for Chickamauga Lock, this time to 65% general revenue funding/35% Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) for FY20. This cost-share change enables an inland navigation program of at least $317.1 million, which will provide full and efficient funding for four ongoing projects: Olmsted, Lower Mon, Kentucky and Chickamauga.


The Corps’ Construction account is slated to receive $2.68 billion, which is $1.37 billion more than the President’s FY20 request, and $498 million above the FY19 enacted level.  The bill provides more than full and efficient IWTF funding at $131.075 million, which will leverage at least $317.1 million for the total program. Current full and efficient funding estimates for the four ongoing projects are $309.6 million, which leaves an additional $7.5 million that will be allocated in the Corps’ 2020 Work Plan.


The Investigations account will receive $151 million, or $74 million above the FY20 Administration request and $26 million above the FY19 enacted level.  Authorized projects (for example, Navigation & Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP); Upper Ohio Navigation Study; GIWW Brazos River to High Island) are eligible to compete for Pre-Construction Engineering Design (PED) funding, with the FY20 amount to be announced in the Work Plan.


Within the Construction account, the bill calls for the development and funding ($525 million) of a multi-year Regional Dredge Demonstration Program within the Central Gulf Coast region to minimize dredging disruptions. 


Six new construction starts, subject to selection by the Secretary of the Army in the 2020 Work Plan, will be released within 60 days (after enactment of the bill); two will be for navigation projects, two will be for environmental restoration projects, and two will be for a navigation, flood and storm damage reduction, environmental restoration, or a multi-purpose project.


The FY20 bill meets and exceeds (by 11%) spending targets set in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) for Corps’ work.


For the Corps’ Operations & Maintenance (O&M) account, the bill allocates $3.79 billion, which is $1.86 billion above the FY20 President’s request and $50 million above the FY19 enacted level. Mississippi Rivers and Tributaries (MR&T) account will receive $375 million in FY20.

Stephaich Awarded for Inland Waterways Dedication

The Port of Pittsburgh Commissioners (PPC) and staff presented Peter Stephaich, (Vice-Chairman of the PPC, and Chairman of WCI) with a Recognition Award for his many years of dedication to the inland waterways system.  Mr. Stephaich is a tireless advocate for infrastructure funding and policies to keep freight moving on our rivers.



In its 2019 end of year letter, Living Lands & Waters (LL&W) notes that since 1998, it has worked on 24 rivers in 21 states and, with the help of more than 115,000 volunteers, removed 10.5 million pounds of debris from U.S. waterways including: 123,710 bags of garbage, 87,089 tires, 943 refrigerators, 17 cars, over 510,000 square feet of styrofoam, 87 messages in bottles, 113 bowling balls, 26 empty safes, 17 mannequin parts, 123 toilets, 13 prosthetic limbs, and two clown shoes. LL&W has hosted 1,091 community river cleanups in 21 different states in its 21 years. WCI thanks LL&W for its efforts to keep our rivers clean and sustainable! 


National Rivers Hall of Fame Honors WCI and Calhoun

WCI and its Senior Vice President Debra Calhoun were honored November 7, 2019, with National Rivers Hall of Fame (NRHOF) Achievement Awards during the 16th Annual Waterways Symposium in Pittsburgh.


According to the NRHOF press release, “WCI’s commitment to addressing key issues have increased national awareness of the importance of river infrastructure and maintenance, and has done so under the leadership of a small and effective team comprised of President & CEO Mike Toohey, Senior Vice President Debra Calhoun, Vice President-Government Relations Tracy Zea, Vice President-Midwest Area Paul Rohde, and Senior Executive Assistant Medina Moran.”


Ms. Calhoun was also honored by the NRHOF for her nearly 25 years of serving as an effective voice on behalf of America’s river transportation industry. According to the news release, “In addition to her impact at WCI, Calhoun served a variety of maritime industry clients as the former President/CEO of Colbert Communications, a communications consultancy practice.  She also served in public affairs and communications for the American Waterways Operators, as well as the Telecommunications Industry Association and the Aerospace Industries Association. Calhoun also serves as Secretary of the National Waterways Foundation.”


National Rivers Hall of Fame was established in 1985 with 113 national advisors, the mission of the National Rivers Hall of Fame is to collect, preserve, and share the stories of the women and men who have had a significant impact on the rivers of America. Located at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa, the Hall of Fame advances its mission through educational programs and exhibits through the Museum & Aquarium, and through its national outreach program, RiverWorks Discovery. The Hall of Fame is supported by members in 36 states. For more information on the NRHOF, visit

WCI Founding Chairman Berdon Lawrence Honored

WCI’s Founding Chairman Berdon Lawrence was honored at a dinner at the Duquesne Club in Pittsburgh on November 5 attended by those who worked closely with him, including past WCI Chairmen Mark Knoy (2005-2007), Dan Mecklenborg (2007-2009), Rick Calhoun (2009-2011), Matt Woodruff (2011-2014), Merritt Lane (2014-2016), Tim Parker (not in attendance) (2016-2018), and Peter Stephaich (2018-), as well as family members. Dinner Sponsors were Steve Golding, Chris Johnsen, John Doyle, Merritt Lane, Peter Stephaich, and Cherrie Felder (Dinner Chair). 


Integral to the creation of Waterways Work!, WCI’s predecessor organization, and to Waterways Council, Inc., Mr. Lawrence served as WCI Chairman from 2003 to 2005, working to bring national attention to the importance of the inland rivers, to decrease the growing surplus in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund to be spent on its intended purpose to maintain and modernize the inland waterways system, and to counter the seemingly constant negative media coverage of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We’ve had a great run,” Mr. Lawrence said of WCI’s early – and continued – success! 


SCI Holds 20th Annual River Bell Awards Luncheon

On Thursday, December 5, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) honored Delbert R. Wilkins (Illinois Marine Towing) with the 2019 River Bell Award. The River Legend Award went to James “Goat” Patterson (Osage Marine Services), and the Distinguished Service Award was presented to Our Industry’s Mariners, in moving speeches delivered by Capt. Michael Burkhart (Ingram Barge Company) and Capt. Gregory Smith (ACBL). The event was held at the Paducah McCracken County Convention in Paducah, KY. 


Deep Dive: A Look at the Corps’ Dive Program

By Kyle Tanner, Corps of Engineers Dive Program Coordinator, Maintenance Section, Nashville District


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Nashville District Dive Team is comprised of dedicated, skilled, and highly trained personnel that support the underwater maintenance and inspections needs for the Navigation, Hydropower, and Flood Risk Management structures on the Tennessee and Cumberland River Systems. Most divers do not see their work because the jobs take them to underwater locations with no visibility. Underwater Diving has always been a necessary part of effective structure maintenance and management on river projects within the Nashville District.  Although the technology and equipment have evolved, the mission remains the same, to ensure personnel safety while performing required diving operations. 


USACE divers live a lifestyle out of the ordinary. They possess a strong desire to take on difficult challenges, both mentally and physically, in a hostile and unforgiving underwater environment. Divers work long hours, in little to no visibility situations, performing a multitude of different tasks. As a diver, it is critical that team members be resourceful and good at making risk-based decisions.

The Nashville District Dive Team has approximately 13 “in-house” working divers that have permanent work locations across the District’s area of operation, but are assembled when needed to perform dives. New diver candidates are placed in training status for up to 18 months and provided with on-the-job training prior to becoming a USACE Working Diver. After successful completion of training dives and experience providing topside support to other divers, the diver in training candidates are sent to the USACE Working Diver Course where they learn additional skills along with emergency management and safe work procedures. The USACE Working Diver Course is currently held at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) in Houston, TX. The NBL pool provides a much cleaner and more controlled environment for training as compared to the river environments the divers will become accustomed to while performing work back home.


Nashville District divers have extensive maintenance backgrounds that provide the dive team an advantage when it comes to familiarity of various projects’ underwater anomalies and operation encountered across the region.  Historically, the dive team has averaged more than 300 dives per year; however, that number is climbing due to aging infrastructure and increased demands for the dive team. The team’s key functions include underwater maintenance and routine underwater inspections of lock and dam components that can’t be viewed above water such as trash screen replacement, diamond wire saw cutting to remove concrete, and inspections required to make functional assessments of operating conditions. These inspections play an important part in planning future maintenance needs and are vital to protecting the public, providing reliable service from the navigational locks and hydropower facilities, and reducing maintenance costs.


The dive team is often deployed in a short period of time to minimize impacts to the navigation industry and/or hydropower generation. This requires dedicated team members and well-choreographed planning to ensure safe and successful execution.

The dive team not only provides specialized support for civil works projects, they recently partnered with the U.S. Army as part of a combined forces maneuver training exercise to support water operations that included installation of a 700’ ribbon bridge and the movement of over 3000 soldiers.


The Nashville District also has the capability to deploy an Underwater Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) to enhance the underwater dive program and increase inspection capabilities. The ROV greatly improves safety for the dive team by rapid deployment for pre-inspection and inspection of underwater construction, repairs, and obstructions. The ROV allows the team to identify hazards prior to deploying a diver and also allows for improved pre-planning to determine what materials may be needed prior to deploying the dive team.


Through technological enhancements and training, the team is continuously improving safety and the quality of underwater work and inspections. Each day brings a new challenge for the dive team, a challenge that the team looks forward to taking on. 


Revolutionizing Midwestern Ports

By Col. (Ret.) Robert Sinkler, Senior Advisor with Dawson & Associates

Ports on the long, skinny segments of the Upper Mississippi River (UMR) and Illinois Waterway (ILWW) are very long, linear, multi-modal transportation features that are nearly 200 miles in length, and have efficiently dispersed terminals along the waterway close to where grain is grown and agricultural products are produced.  The terminals on the waterway are served by an interconnected network of roads and railways, and compliment nearby industrial and commercial users of the region’s multi-modal transportation infrastructure supporting other commodities.


Regional planning agencies are finalizing the application for the creation of the Mississippi River Ports of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois (MRPEIWI) Port Statistical Area (PSA) in consultation with government agencies in the region.  Their effort is modeled after the Ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky PSA which was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in January 2015.  The initial MRPEIWI proposal (Figure 1) includes over 90% of Iowa’s existing port infrastructure consisting of 50 existing barge terminals that are concentrated in 7.5 Iowa counties, and about 20 terminals across the river in Illinois.  The MRPEIWI PSA would rank 68th on the U.S. Ports list, based on the tonnage of imports and exports, and be the 20th largest inland port in the nation. 


Iowa is currently the only major exporting state on the inland waterway system that is not served by a federally recognized port.  Sam Hiscocks, the Freight Planning Coordinator for the Iowa Department of Transportation said, “The State of Iowa has been a strong supporter of the inland waterway system by working closely with public and private stakeholders to improve the efficiency and reliability of the Upper Mississippi navigation system. Designation of the state’s first federally-recognized port area(s) will supplement these efforts and bring more visibility to the region, make Iowa producers and shippers more competitive, and grow the state’s economy.”  Denise Bulat, Executive Director of the Bi-State Regional Commission, who is coordinating the MRPEIWI planning effort, said, “Waterborne traffic in the two states has been crucial throughout their history and expands the efficiency of the substantial roadway and rail access along the proposed MRPEIWI statistical port area.” 


A nearby 200-mile section of the ILWW may have been similarly overlooked as a PSA designation.  The impact of Chicago, the nation’s third largest city, on the ILWW is substantial.  An ongoing Illinois Marine Transportation System Planning Study could recommend further grouping of existing ports and terminals, resulting in the ILWW Ports and Terminals being federally recognized as the 50th largest port in the U.S.  The Marine Highway System cannot ignore Iowa, ranked overall second in the nation for value of agricultural exports.  Iowa is first in the nation in corn exports ($1.58 billion) and feed grain exports ($1.22 billion); and ranked second in soybean exports ($3.05 billion).  And, nearby Illinois accounts for 6% of all U.S. exports, is a top 5 exporting state, and is another top producer of agricultural goods. 


The Mid-America Port, a top 60 U.S. port (based on tonnage) at the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers above Lock and Dam 26 north of St. Louis, MO is in the works and is anticipated to be recognized as a PSA by the federal government soon, also.  Federal recognition of MRPEIWI, the ILWW Ports and Terminals, and the Mid-America Port as PSAs will further highlight the Midwest region as the nationally and globally significant multi-modal transportation zone, and major exporter that it is.  “These waterways not only provide the region with intrastate and interstate connectivity but also international connections through the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico,” said BJ Murray from the Illinois Department of Transportation Office of Planning & Programming.  Soon the UMR and ILWW above Lock and Dam 26 could have three new 200 river mile-long ports, somewhat similar to the Ohio River’s Ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, the Port of Pittsburgh, and the Port of Huntington, West Virginia. w


Illinois Lt. Governor Tours Lock and Dam 15

Illinois’ new Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton toured Upper Mississippi River Lock 15 on October 17. Rock Island District hosted LG Stratton and pointed out the operations and maintenance challenges of the lock, which opened in 1934. L/D 15 also underwent service bridge repairs this year, as well as repairs to the downstream guidewall, which had to be demolished in 2017 after significant shifting occurred. 


Pittsburgh Hosts WCI Annual Meeting,16th Annual Waterways Symposium

Pittsburgh’s Fairmont Hotel was the place to be November 6-8 for WCI’s Annual Meeting and 16th Annual Waterways Symposium. The symposium is sponsored by WCI, IEG Vantage and Waterways Journal


On November 6, WCI members toured United Association’s (UA) Steamfittters Local 449 Training Center located outside Pittsburgh, with addresses by Business Manager Ken Broadbent and General Secretary Pat Kellett. Later that day, the National Waterways Foundation Board of Trustees meeting was held, where Rick Calhoun was elected Chairman and Dan Mecklenborg, who served as Chairman for the past two years, was lauded for his counsel and commitment to the cause of peer-reviewed inland waterways research that helps the public to understand how to maintain our waterways system, enhance its capabilities and promote its value in the future.


The WCI Annual Meeting and Board of Directors Meeting was held after that, followed by a presentation by the National Rivers Hall of Fame (NRHOF), bestowing National Achievement Awards. 


On November 7-8, the 16th Annual Waterways Symposium, themed, “Structuring a Plan for Waterways’ Infrastructure” was held.  Peter Zeihan, renowned author of The Accidental Superpower and The Absent Superpower, was Keynote Speaker, and joined other prominent speakers Tom Scott (Global Director, Agribusiness Consulting, IEG Vantage); Hilary Mercer (Vice President, Pennsylvania Chemicals, Shell); David Spigelmyer (President, Marcellus Shale Coalition); and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).  Two panels were also held, the first addressing “What’s Moving on the Waterways?” moderated by Ken Eriksen (Senior Vice President, IEG Vantage), with Kelly Nelson, Ph.D. (Economist, USDA-AMS-Transportation & Marketing Transportation Services) discussing grain; Andrew Young (Functional Logistics Manager, Bechtel Oil, Gas & Chemicals) addressing large cargoes; and Craig Darilek (Senior Manager of Chartering, Valero Energy Corporation), addressing petroleum. The second panel discussed “The Capital Investment Strategy: The Next Phase,” with Moderator Michael Monahan (Vice Chairman, Inland Waterways Users Board); Tom Heinold (Chief of Operations, Rock Island District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) discussing NESP and the Illinois Waterway closure in 2020; Col. Andrew J. Short (Commander and District Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District), addressing the Upper Ohio Navigation Study and Lower Mon Project; and Jim Stark (President, Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association (GICA), addressing Gulf Intracoastal Waterway priorities and the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Project.


WCI enjoyed the support of a record number of sponsors this year -- thank you to our sponsors! 


In Memoriam: Charlie Jones

On October 20, industry pioneer and Chief Executive Office of Amherst Madison, Inc. Charles “Charlie” Jones passed away. He was 101. In additional to serving as a WCI Board Member, Charlie was a part of The American Waterways Operators, Ohio Valley Improvement Association, DINAMO, Sons & Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, Seamen’s Church Institute, from which he received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003; and a Trustee of the National Waterways Foundation. In 2001, he received the National Rivers Hall of Fame National Achievement Award. He also served as Chairman of the Inland Waterways User Board for three years and was named Chairman Emeritus. In 2008, he was honored as Distinguished West Virginian and inducted into the Coal Mining Hall of Fame. 

Among the tributes that poured in for Charlie was this from Senator Shelley Moore Capito, “So sad to hear of the passing of Charlie Jones, a veteran, Distinguished West Virginian, National Rivers Hall of Fame Achievement Award Winner, riverman, husband, father, and my friend. 101 years of giving for others.”


Senator Joe Manchin said, “Charlie was a regular Renaissance man, and his zest for innovation never waned throughout his long life – a World War II Veteran, a legendary businessman, coal miner, farmer, riverboat captain, and a servant of the community who was adored by all. His influence and legacy will remain in our hearts and in the hearts of countless West Virginians forever.”

If you wish to honor Charlie through a charitable organization, consider The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation and note that you must include “Charles T. and Mary Ellen Jones Fund” on the subject line.


The Foundation’s main page is, go to the “DONATE NOW” option on the lower left side of the main page that will lead to the online giving page. Again, earmark your donation for Charles T. and Mary Ellen Jones Fund.

If you wish to send a contribution by mail, the address is The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, P.O. Box 3041, Charleston, WV 25331. Contributions must also be earmarked for the Charles T. and Mary Ellen Jones Fund if sending by mail.


Industry Calendar

January 12-16: Transportation Research Board 2020 Annual Meeting, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC. www/

January 22-24: American Waterways Operators Safety Committees Annual Meetings and Midwest, Ohio Valley & Southern Regions Combined Meeting, Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans, LA.

February 3-6: Passenger Vessel Association Annual Convention at MariTrends2020, Tampa Convention Center, Tampa, FL.

February 12-14: WCI 2020 Washington Meetings, Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC. Register here:

February 19-20: 38th Mississippi Valley Trade and Transport Conference, Omni Royal Orleans Hotel, New Orleans, LA. w


Happy Holidays!

The Waterways Council, Inc. staff thanks you for your support in 2019 and we wish you the happiest of holidays!



Capitol Currents is published by:


Deb Calhoun – Editor

Michael J. Toohey – Publisher

499 S. Capitol Street, SW
Suite 401
Washington, DC 20003

www.waterwayscouncil.orgCapitol Currents Newsletter

December 19, 2019

This is a text-only version of Waterways Council’s newsletter, Capitol Currents.  To read the full PDF version, including all images, please click here.