Capitol Currents Newsletter

Infrastructure Bill to Bring Billions to Inland Waterways

December 20, 2021

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Infrastructure Bill To Bring Billions To Inland Waterways

By Tracy Zea, WCI President/CEO , Waterways Council, Inc.


We’ve all heard a lot about “infrastructure” over the last several years, and there was rejoicing when the actual legislation was finally signed into law on November 15. Now the buzzword about the legislation is it’s a “once-in-a-generation" opportunity to address shortfalls among all sectors of infrastructure.  That’s not an understatement; as you look back in history, there are very few pieces of legislation that have touched so many different classes of infrastructure in one bill. 


The most recent example was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), signed into law in 2009.  That pales in comparison to this year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. For anything even close, you’d have to go all the way back to the historic New Deal of 1933-1939. So, indeed, this was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix our nation’s ailing and failing infrastructure.


Many people did a lot of hard work over many years to make this opportunity a reality for our inland waterways lock and dam infrastructure. All told, hundreds of miles of walking Capitol Hill, educating lawmakers, hosting Congressional staff and elected officials on boats and at facilities, participating in editorial board meetings, outreaching through our digital grassroots efforts, and spreading the word on social media to advance the message paid off tremendously.  WCI owes a debt of gratitude to its members and partners for everything you have done to position inland waterways infrastructure to achieve this win.


By now, you’ve probably heard that $2.5 billion of full federal funding has been provided to inland waterways construction and modernization. When the $2.5 billion is coupled with annual appropriations, there is the potential for almost two-thirds of the 15-project portfolio of authorized projects currently in the queue to be completed in the next five years.  


Enjoy a well-deserved victory lap, but now it’s time to keep our foot on the gas to advocate to the Administration that the Capital Investment Strategy (CIS) be followed in the Corps’ spend plan, set for release around January 15. We encourage you to go to the WCI Action Center on our website and send a letter to the Administration advocating that the CIS be followed.


The CIS document follows the principles of finishing ongoing projects (Chickamauga, Kentucky, and Montgomery) and then moving to tier A of the CIS (Lock and Dam 25, Three Rivers, and LaGrange). This $2.5 billion provides enough funding for completion of Tier A projects if the Administration/Office of Management and Budget (OMB) follows that approach.  


As always, WCI is grateful to its members and the effort and work that’s been done over many years to achieve this historic opportunity. Still, we must not rest on our laurels because the show goes on.


WCI To The Administration/OMB: Follow The CIS

Now that the infrastructure bill has passed, the Corps will allocate project-specific funding levels in a detailed spend plan to be submitted to the House and Senate no later than 60 days after the bill was signed. Starting not later than 120 days after enactment of the bill, the Chief of Engineers will report monthly to House and Senate Appropriations Committees on the allocation and obligation of funds, and new construction projects selected to be initiated.   


The Corps’ Operations and Maintenance account for all business line items within the Civil Works mission  received the significant amount of $4 billion. Inland waterways projects and dredging are eligible to compete for funding that will be allocated in the Corps spend plan.  

Below are the CIS ongoing projects and new start projects:


4.2    Ongoing Construction Projects (Category 1)

Currently, there are four ongoing construction projects in various stages of completion. As determined by the methodology in Section 3, these are scheduled by priority order, and assuming current appropriation trends continue, all ongoing construction projects will be completed in 2025 (Table 11).

Table 11. Category 1, Ongoing Construction Projects




Remaining Cost (SK)

After FY 2020

Olmsted Locks & Dam

Ohio River


Funded to Completion

Locks & Dams 2, 3, and 4,
Monongahela River Navigation Project

Monongahela River


Funded to Completion

Kentucky Lock Addition

Tennessee River



Chickamauga Lock

Tennessee River




Note: Remaining costs for Kentucky Lock Addition and Chickamauga Lock are based on information presented at Inland Waterways Users Board Meeting #95 on October 30, 2020.


4.3    New Start Construction Projects (Category 2)

Following the methodology in Section 3, the priority list of potential new construction projects and major rehabilitation projects for consideration are listed in Table 12. The projects are organized into groups of projects with similar priority based on the analysis described in Section 3. The projects are listed according to the construction funding scenarios discussed in Section 4.6, and do not indicate project priority within that group.

Table 12. Category 2, New Start Construction Projects


Project Title

Project Location


Fully Funded Cost ($K)



L&D 25 (Mississippi River)




Three Rivers





Upper Ohio Navigation


Locks & Dams Improvements

Montgomery Locks & Dam





LaGrange L&D (IWW)





L&D 24 (Mississippi River)




MKARNS 12 ft. Channel






Upper Ohio Navigation


Locks & Dams Improvements

Emsworth Locks & Dam





L&D 22 (Mississippi River





L&D 21 (Mississippi River)




Upper Ohio Navigation



Locks & Dams Improvements

Dashields Locks & Dam





Peoria L&D (IWW)





L&D 20 (Mississippi River)




Thomas O'Brien L&D 
Major Rehabilitation










USACE Holds Inland Waterways Industry Day

By Dustin Davidson, WCI Director of Government Relations


The Inland Waterways Users Board (IWUB) has been reconstituted but not repopulated after a zero-based review of all federal advisory boards by the Department of Defense in January. As the Biden Administration prepares to rebuild roads, rails, runways, and rivers, the IWUB’s importance becomes clearer, as a conduit to provide industry perspective and recommendations to Congress and the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) about investments for inland waterways modernization. On December 15, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hosted a Virtual Inland Waterways Industry Day where industry leaders had the opportunity to raise issues and discuss a path forward for lock infrastructure construction.


Newly sworn-in Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor, stressed in his opening statement the economic and environmental benefits the inland waterways provide to the nation. Secretary Connor recognized the need to educate the Biden Administration and legislators on the system’s importance and how infrastructure investments increase commerce and competitiveness. Secretary Connor highlighted one role that the inland waterways industry could play in President Biden’s clean energy initiative by moving wind turbine blades. He closed by applauding industry support for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP). After touring Mel Price Lock & Dam and Lock & Dam 25 on the Mississippi River, Secretary Connor underscored his new understanding of the importance of NESP to ecosystem restoration and the need for navigation improvements.


Secretary Connor’s visit to Mel Price and Lock 25 allowed him to observe the scale of the navigation projects and, more importantly, the need to modernize the Upper Mississippi river locks to create increased efficiency, reliability and safety to mariners. As the Corps and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) work to finalize their spend plan for the infrastructure funding, it is reassuring that the industry was given an avenue to provide their perspectives.


The second area of focus at the meeting was the 2020 Capital Investment Strategy (CIS) and the need to repopulate the IWUB, which plays a critical role in the CIS. Canal Barge Company’s Spencer Murphy summarized it best, saying, “the Capital Investment Strategy is like our bible, and we rely on that document to deliver results to the industry and the Corps.” 


At the meeting, the status of ongoing construction projects was covered in detail by Corps’ district commanders, with questions on construction delays, impacts to navigation, and the increasing cost of building materials addressed. It is no secret that project delivery can often take longer than expected.


The meeting’s other major development is that Corps Deputy Chief MG William Graham committed to work with industry to update the CIS priority project list in the spring of 2022. The Corps left the Industry Day attendees with a sense of “communication, cooperation and commitment” to hold three IWUB meetings or Industry days in 2022 to continue the open dialogue.


WCI’s St. Louis Meetings A Great Success

For the first time in nearly two years, WCI members were able to attend an in-person meeting in St. Louis at the Loews Live! Hotel November 2-4.  Events included our Annual Meeting, Board of Directors meeting, and Waterways Symposium (#SYM21).


After the business of the association was conducted at the Annual Meeting and Board of Directors meetings, the Waterways Symposium provided an array of speakers on a broad range of topics, including the following:


•    “Geopolitical Change and the Continued Significance of Our Nation's Inland Waterways” by Rodger Baker, Senior Vice President of Strategic Analysis, RANE Network;

•    Inland Waterways Resilience Case Study by Dr. Craig Philip, Vanderbilt University;

•    “NGFA Priorities and Outlook” by Michael Seyfert, President, National Grain and Feed Association;

•    “St. Louis District Perspectives” by Col. Kevin R. Golinghorst, Commander, St. Louis District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers;

•.   Political Perspectives by Nathan Gonzales, Inside Elections;

•.   “Updates on the Navigation-Ecosystem Sustainability Program, Mississippi River Dredging, and Infrastructure” by Edward E. Belk, Jr., Programs Manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division;

•”.   What's Moving on the Waterways?" commodities panel with Jake Brodbeck, ARTCo and Kristin Beck, LafargeHolcim, moderated by Ken Eriksen, IHS Markit.


ASA(CW) In Office, Visits Lock Projects

On November 29, Michael Connor was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.  On December 14, Secretary Connor visited Mel Price Lock and Lock 25.  He also participated in a virtual Inland Waterways Industry Day meeting on December 15 sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters, Civil Works Directorate, and Navigation Business Line.  WCI also participated and communicated the importance of adhering to the CIS plan for inland waterways projects funding from the infrastructure bill.


WCI Member Spotlight: Shimmick Construction

New WCI member Shimmick is a heavy civil construction contractor operating nationwide with a proud history completing projects within the inland waterways region. The company has successfully delivered over $4 billion in highly complex projects for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and continues to do so with world-class staff, craftsmen, and an extensive fleet of equipment. Their deep-rooted culture was built upon the 115-year legacies of Morrison Knudsen and Washington Group International. Today’s Shimmick is the result of multiple entities becoming one — combining people, resources, and experience to carry on a tradition of delivering some of the most complex U.S. infrastructure projects.  


As a major employer within the inland waterways, Shimmick serves its major client, the USACE, and the marine industry with dedicated builders and a strong equipment fleet.  Shimmick’s in-house capabilities include new construction and rehabilitation of marine structures, earthworks, deep foundation both driven and drilled, mass and structural concrete, structural steel, and mechanical and electrical installation, all of which contributes to their strong resume for construction of water resource projects including piers, locks and dams, levees, fish passageways, and large hydraulic structures.


With a 75-plus year work history with USACE and its districts, Shimmick was the first contractor to achieve Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) status on the Olmsted Dam project. Its current prime projects with USACE include the following:


  •   Chickamauga Lock Chamber Replacement, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Work on this $240-million contract includes construction, the use of an on-site batch plant, concrete conveyance, and testing facilities, and extensive excavation and demolition of existing concrete features. The project entails approximately 10,000 cubic yards of dental excavation (offsite disposal) and placement of dental concrete and 19,315 square yards of rock foundation preparations for placement of approximately 285,068 cubic yards of concrete in the construction of monoliths for the new 600-foot-long lock including 6,936 tons of deformed steel bars. This major project will be completed in 2024. 


  •   LaGrange Lock and Dam Rehabilitation, Versailles, Illinois. Shimmick is working to close out this three-year, $120-million project which provides a more robust, safe, and efficient lock and dam structure on the Illinois River. In 2019, the lock wall flooded three times during the construction season. To overcome subsequent delays and keep the accelerated plan on track, the Shimmick team worked deep into the winter. Similar high-water challenges prevented any work from being completed during a 6-week pre-closure period in 2020. This change in schedule forced Shimmick again to implement schedule mitigation measures to limit the impact of the closure period. 


Additionally, during this time, the team developed and implemented COVID-19 action plans to properly protect workers from the ongoing pandemic while keeping the project on track.  As flood waters receded, Shimmick kicked off an accelerated two-shift operation to work through all the preclosure and closure work concurrently. Support from USACE leadership in recognizing challenges and providing the necessary support was critical to timely project completion.


Shimmick is proud to be a member of Waterways Council, Inc. and to support its essential inland waterways mission to serve the Corps and local communities.    


Conservation Column: How Healthy Is Your River?

By Kirsten Wallace, Executive Director, Upper Mississippi River Basin Association and Kim Lutz, Executive Director, America’s Watershed Initiative


The Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) program and the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association (UMRBA) in early 2022 will launch separate, but compatible, reports that will provide unprecedented in-depth knowledge of the Upper Mississippi River ecosystem and its water-quality conditions. The Upper Mississippi River ecosystem has long been known to be a complicated and multifaceted large river system – a mosaic of braided channels, backwaters, islands, and extensive forests within and along the riverbanks. Now, as reflected in these new reports, the duration and consistency of monitoring provide a much clearer understanding of the complex, dynamic relationships among various ecosystem components and the factors influencing its health. In short: Like never before, we know what is challenging the river and where and how we’ve improved it. 


In large part, the wealth of information available is due to the navigation industry’s unwavering commitment to invest in the river’s ecological health and regard science as a fundamental priority. This knowledge is a tremendous gift and exists because of a hard-fought agreement reached 40 years ago in which the navigation industry agreed that the river’s ecological integrity needs to be similarly maintained as the 9-foot navigation channel. 


The UMRR uniquely and effectively combines ecosystem restoration with scientific monitoring and research. The program operates through a truly unique and remarkable partnership infrastructure, with Congress assigning the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers management and execution responsibility in direct consultation with the Department of the Interior and the states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.  In addition, UMRR partners with other federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, industry, and the public that have an interest in the program’s activities. Every 10 years, the UMRR publishes an assessment explaining how the ecosystem is doing and where and how it has changed over time. The 2022 report concludes:


•        There is more water more of the time everywhere in the system, and that is affecting the river ecosystem in multiple ways. 

•        Floodplain forests are significantly declining due to sustained high water from spring to summer, except from St. Louis to the Ohio River where the forests have increased in cover. 

•        Nutrient levels remain high, although turbidity and phosphorus are decreasing nearly everywhere because of soil-erosion control and other regulatory measures.  Heavy metals typically bounded to sediment have also decreased.

•        Reductions in turbidity and phosphorus have improved water clarity, leading to a rebound in plants and fish that prefer slower water flows. 

•        Chloride has increased nearly everywhere in the river.

•        Deep-water habitats important for fish are filling in with sediment and are at risk of waning.

•        Invasive carp have changed the ecosystem in places where they have thrived, causing substantial declines in forage fish that are important in the middle of the food chain.


UMRBA—which has a mission to foster cooperative action in managing the river for multiple purposes and serves as the states’ interstate water quality entity—asks for continued navigation-industry partnership and support as we embark on the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP). NESP provides for comparable progress in restoring the river ecosystem as modernizing the locks would for the navigation system. We are in a unique moment in which the unprecedented federal influx in water resource investments can propel major improvements in river health and resilience to stressors. The new and growing knowledge of the river’s ecological and water-quality status and trends is critical to guide those investments. 


A partner in communicating the results of these two critical studies, America’s Watershed Initiative, is interested in taking the information from these two reports to other parts of the vast Mississippi River Watershed to illustrate what state-of-the-art biological monitoring can tell us about the health of the systems, help generate the funding necessary to support these robust programs and show how a healthy ecosystem can support the economic uses of the rivers and watershed.


Together, we have an opportunity to share the story of our river, whether at a finer sub-basin scale that provides the detail for decision making about how and where to invest scarce dollars, or at a basin scale to provide a call to action about this mighty river system.


For more information, contact: Kirsten Wallace, UMRBA Executive Director at or Kim Lutz, AWI Executive Director at


Seamen’s Church Institute Honors WCI Members

Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) held its annual River Bell Awards luncheon, in-person this year after a year off due to COVID-19, on December 9 in Paducah. This year, the honorees were WCI members Steve Golding, CEO, Golding Barge Line, who received the River Bell Award, and the crew of the M/V Joseph Merrick Jones, Canal Barge Company, who received the Lifesaving Award.  Rear Admiral John Nadeau (ret.), USCG, was honored with the Distinguished Service Award.


Steve Golding, Chairman of Golding Barge Line, began his river career at a young age working at Big River Shipyard in Vicksburg and later onboard boats of Ole Man River Towing. After graduating from Mississippi State University in 1972 he went on to lead the company to become a well-established barge line. He took advantage of an opportunity to sell Ole Man River to Kirby Corporation in 1992.


Steve reentered the barge industry with the formation of Golding Barge Line in 1995. He, along with his talented staff, have spent the last 26 years building Golding Barge Line into a well-known barge operation specializing in the movement of refined petroleum, petrochemicals, and chemical products. Golding Barge Line owns and operates 28 towboats, 66 tank barges, and employs approximately 285 employees. Steve has served on the WCI Board and was a founding member.


The M/V Joseph Merrick Jones crew of Captain Cody Holifield, Pilot Adam Dobbs, Steersman Jeffery Buntin, Engineer Stephen Hill, Engineer trainee Joseph Buckley, Mate David Gatlin, and Deckhands Stephen Garret, Evan Bartles, Kaddarrious Shields and Charlie Porter rescued crewmembers from a Corps of Engineers vessel in distress on April 21, 2020.


Due to prolonged high-water conditions, the M/V Joseph Merrick Jones was the industry vessel assigned to assist tows with safe transits through Baton Rouge. The Corps’ Dredge Jadwin was transiting southbound through the Upper Baton Rouge Bridge (near LM 235.27) when it struck one of the bridge piers, breaking its chain of dredge pipeline and causing one of the assist boats for the dredge to capsize. Three people were on board the assist vessel and the M/V Joseph Merrick Jones crew successfully rescued them with no loss of life or injuries. 


Rear Admiral John Nadeau, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.), is President and CEO of JPN & Associates, and serves as a senior advisor and maritime consultant to owners and operators of commercial vessels, facilities, ports, and other maritime stakeholders.


An accomplished senior leader and U.S. Coast Guard veteran, he was entrusted with positions of continuously increasing levels of responsibility, authority, and complexity during his 32 years of service, which culminated in the rank of Rear Admiral. In his last assignment, Rear Admiral Nadeau was Commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District and led 4,500 personnel, 110 Coast Guard units, dozens of cutters and aircraft, and hundreds of boats. He oversaw Coast Guard operations across 26 states, the Gulf of Mexico coastline from Florida to Mexico, the adjacent offshore waters and outer continental shelf, Houston, New Orleans, Corpus Christi, Port Arthur, Mobile and other gulf coast ports, and the inland waterways of the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, and other western rivers.


Welcome New WCI Members!


•        Float Freight

•        Heritage Petroleum

•        Kansas Corn Growers Association

•        Luhr Brothers

•        Maritime Partners

•        Port of Louisville

•        Port of Memphis

          Port of Muskogee

•        Port of Greenville

•        Port of Vicksburg

•        Rushing Marine Service

•        Renasant Bank

•        Shimmick

•        Twin Disc

•        Watco

•        Wood Resources


2022 Industry Calendar (subject to change)


January 12: Brandon Road Interbasin Project Quarterly Update (virtual). The Corps’ Rock Island District and its non-federal partners will host a virtual quarterly update session at 1 p.m. CST to learn more or ask questions of the project team. To participate:

An audio-only option will also be available: 1-844-800-2712 with meeting number: 199 338 6849. If asked to enter an attendee ID, enter #.


February 15:  WCI Board of Directors virtual meeting (for WCI members only).  Details to follow.  WCI’s  Washington, DC fly-in  will also be held virtually this year due to the continued closure of  Capitol Hill to visitors.


February 23:  Inland Rivers Ports & Terminals Missouri River Basin Meeting (Jefferson City, MO). Visit


February 24:  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Missouri River Navigator’s Meeting (Jefferson City, MO).


March 10 -12: Commodity Classic 2022, Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (New Orleans). 


March 14-16: National Waterways Conference 2022 Legislative Conference (Washington, DC).  For details visit


May 16: American Waterways Operators Spring Board Meeting, Convention and Barge-In for AWO members only (Washington, DC).  
Contact Anne Fazzini for more information.


May 23-25: Inland Marine Expo 2022 (St. Louis, MO). 


June 9: Seamen’s Church Institute Silver Bell Awards, Pier 60 (New York, NY).