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Capitol Currents - Text Only Version

July 31, 2019

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Capitol Currents Newsletter
July 31, 2019

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


WCI Urges Cost-Share Change in WRDA 2020

On July 10, Rob Innis, Plant Manager of LafargeHolcim’s Sparrows Point (MD) cement facility, testified on behalf of WCI at a hearing of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. The hearing addressed “Water Resources Development Acts (WRDA): Status of Implementation and Assessing Future Needs.” Mr. Innis serves as Chairman of the Inland Waterways Users Board, and is a member of WCI’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee. 


LafargeHolcim is the leading global building material and solutions company serving masons, builders, architects, engineers, and major construction companies around the world. LafargeHolcim operates in more than 80 countries with over 80,000 employees. The company produces cement, aggregates, concrete, and specialty construction solutions products used in building projects ranging from affordable housing and small, local projects to the largest, most technically and architecturally challenging infrastructure projects.


Mr. Innis said that as we look ahead to WRDA 2020, WCI and its members are urging conforming inland waterways cost-sharing to 75% General Revenues/25% Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) from the current 50%/50% formula. This same funding formula was adopted for deep-draft ports in WRDA 2016 to expedite critical channel deepening to be ready to receive post-Panamax vessels calling on U.S. ports. Making this change for the inland waterways would ensure that funding remains at or above a $400 million-level that was achieved as a result of the cost-share change at the Olmsted project, and accelerate navigation project delivery in order to efficiently complete a portfolio of more than 15 high priority inland navigation projects that are under construction or awaiting construction. Under the current funding formula, many of these projects will not begin construction in the next 20 years.


Also testifying at the hearing was The Honorable R.D. James, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works); Major General Scott A. Spellmon, Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Chad Berginnis, Executive Director, Association of State Floodplain Managers; Tom Waters, Chairman, Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association; Julie Hill-Gabriel, Vice President for Water Conservation, The National Audubon Society; Derek Brockbank, Executive Director, American Shore and Beach Preservation Association; and F. Martin (Marty) Ralph, Ph.D., Director, Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego. 


Budget Deal Reached in Congress, Senate to Act on Appropriations

On July 22, Congressional leaders and the White House reached a deal on budget caps to guide the appropriations process and to raise the debt ceiling, which was to be breached in mid-September. The two-year agreement (H.R. 3877) increases federal spending and suspends the debt limit through July 2021. The deal provides more than $2.7 trillion in spending over two years, increasing defense and non-defense spending over the next two fiscal years. The deal also sets the stage for the Senate to move its FY2020 appropriations bills.


On June 19, by a vote of 226-203, the House passed this year’s first Minibus Appropriations bill that included the FY2020 Energy & Water Development (E&WD) appropriations bill that funds the Corps of Engineers, along with the Labor/Health, Defense, and State/Foreign Operations appropriations bills. The Minibus funding levels were extremely favorable to the Corps, with $7.36 billion for Civil Works, $3.92 billion for Operations & Maintenance (O&M), and at least $215 million for IWTF-financed projects. With the E&WD bill included in the Minibus, the House has passed all but two appropriations bills, Department of Homeland Security and the Legislative Branch.


Flooding Delays Corps’ Work on Bulkhead Slots on Illinois Waterway

By Tom Heinold, Chief, Operations Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District


Following the extended inaccessibility of the Illinois Waterway as a result of lock closures on the Mississippi due to flooding this past Spring, the Corps of Engineers and its contractors were finally able to mobilize to Starved Rock and Marseilles Locks to start work on the bulkhead slot installations there.  The bulkhead slots will enable the 2020 consolidated closures projects to move forward as scheduled.  Unfortunately, the flooding not only wreaked havoc with the navigation industry’s ability to ship goods along the waterway, but it also had an adverse impact on the construction of the bulkhead slots.  The Corps is currently continuing the scheduled 70-foot width restrictions at both locks, working on the vertical slots during the day and passing traffic at night. 


However, the Corps has determined that the originally scheduled August 16-29 full closure to construct the horizontal sill across the bottoms of the chambers are infeasible and must be pushed back. 


The navigation industry requested a 10-day unrestricted navigation locking period (110-feet width lock chamber availability at both Starved Rock Lock and Marseilles Lock) after the completion of the vertical slots and before the full closure.  This new unrestricted navigation locking period -- which should allow the industry to ship loads to Chicago and get the barges back below the locks before the two-week-long full closure -- will begin at 6 p.m. on September 10 and end at 6 a.m. on September 21. Tow haulage units will be available during this full-width, unrestricted navigation period.  The new 14-day closure period for Starved Rock Lock and Marseilles Lock will start at 6 a.m. on September 21 and end at 6 a.m. on October 5. 


This should return the waterway to a fully-open condition in time for harvest season, which unfortunately was also impacted by flooding.  The Corps will also close Lockport Lock concurrently with the new two-week closure window to perform critical maintenance on a miter gate there.  The Corps will issue official navigation notices soon, and is moving forward with the necessary work as efficiently, safely and expeditiously as possible after the flood delays. The Corps will continue to work and communicate with industry to accommodate the needs of commercial traffic as best it can.


WCI Videos Highlight Waterways’ Important Connections 

WCI has produced five new educational videos about the inland waterways’ connection to agriculture, to the labor community, to shippers, to the Corps of Engineers, and to building communities. The videos are available to post and share via the YouTube links, below.          

Agriculture video with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue interview:

Labor/American workers video:

Shippers video:

Communities video:

Don Getty Interview video:


Don’t Miss WCI’s 16th Annual Waterways Symposium, November 6-8

WCI’s 16th Annual Waterways Symposium and WCI Annual Meeting will be held November 6-8, 2019, in Pittsburgh, at the Fairmont Hotel, 510 Market Street. The event is sponsored by Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI), Informa Economics and Waterways Journal. To access the registration link, visit


To see the current schedule of events (subject to change) and symposium brochure, visit


Cost: $650 Early Bird Registration (by October 7); $725 after that date. Registration for guests attending social events only is $250/guest.  Questions? Call Medina Moran, 202-765-2166 or


Sponsorship opportunities are also available online (or by contacting Deb Calhoun, Levels are Platinum: $5,000, Gold: $3,500, Silver: $2,000.


This year’s symposium keynote speaker is Geopolitical Strategist Peter Zeihan, a global energy, demographic and security expert and author of The Accidental Superpower.


Zeihan’s worldview marries the realities of geography and populations to a deep understanding of how global politics impact markets and economic trends, helping industry leaders navigate today’s complex mix of geopolitical risks and opportunities.w


AWI: Back to School for a 2020 Report Card

By Frank Morton, Executive Director,
America’s Watershed Initiative


Since 2010, America’s Watershed Initiative (AWI) has been working with hundreds of business, government, academic, and civic organizations to establish goals and metrics and to support shared solutions for the challenges facing the Mississippi River Watershed and the more than 250 rivers that flow into it.


The challenges facing the waters and lands in the watershed are large, growing, and increasingly complex.  The waters flow from 31 states and two provinces in Canada, comprising the fourth largest watershed on Earth.  These waters are integral to the production of more than half of America’s goods and services, including agricultural products worth more than $50 billion annually; and much of America’s energy production, including nearly 25% of the nation’s hydropower.  The transportation network in the watershed moves millions of tons of goods – safely, reliably, and efficiently – generating billions in economic benefits to the nation. 


The watershed’s rivers and wetlands provide unique wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities as well.  For all these reasons our nation’s economic prosperity and future are dependent on maintaining and investing in this incredibly valuable resource.

During 2014 and 2015 America’s Watershed Initiative worked with leading stakeholders and experts from more than 400 businesses, civic organizations, agencies, and academic institutions to develop the first Mississippi River Watershed Report Card.  Stakeholders from each of the five basins participated – Upper Mississippi River, Lower Mississippi River, Ohio River and Tennessee River, Arkansas River and Red River, and Missouri River.


The 2015 Report Card focused on six goals for the watershed:

  • Ecosystems– support and enhance healthy and productive ecosystems;
  • Flood Control and Risk Reduction– provide reliable flood control and risk reduction;
  • Water Supply– maintain supply of abundant, clean water;
  • Transportation– serve as the nation’s most valuable river transportation corridor;
  • Economy– support local and state and national economies; and
  • Recreation– provide world-class recreational opportunities. 

Each of the goals received an individual grade and the watershed received an overall grade of D+.

The purpose of the Report Card is simple – to provide policymakers, watershed stakeholders, and the public with a way to understand information about the condition of the watershed and to help them develop collaborative approaches to improve the health of the watershed.


AWI is dedicated to encouraging increased investment, greater collaboration and improved information, and through integrated and innovative solutions and partners.


As updated over time, the Report Card will track progress in ‘raising the grade’ of the goal areas.  Report Card results will help provide a roadmap and a foundation for collaborative actions to improve the Mississippi River Watershed and encourage people and organizations to engage in efforts to accomplish this.


It is the goal of America’s watershed Initiative to produce an updated version of the Report Card early in the first quarter of 2020.  To that end AWI is conducting webinars, publishing papers, holding summits, and updating data and metrics.  The Report Card, which we hope to issue in the first quarter of 2020, will update the six broad goals that were graded in 2015 and add a new goal area for Energy. 


The Board of Directors of America’s Watershed Initiative includes members from throughout the watershed and a diversity of sectors including conservation, navigation, agriculture, flood control and risk reduction, industry, academia, basin associations, local and state governments and their related agencies.  AWI is a 501 © 3 organization dedicated to working with diverse interests and stakeholders to encourage the development of strategies for management of the watershed to its highest and best use.  AWI believes that the collaboration and partnership of leaders in business, conservation, navigation, agriculture, and government is essential to meet the challenges of a dynamic and fluctuating Mississippi River Watershed.


America’s Watershed Initiative appreciates any feedback you can provide. Going forward AWI needs your participation, collaboration and help, including financial support. For more information or if you have questions, contact me at or 504/329-1896 (cell). Visit our website at


WCI Debuts New Look: Improved Website Launches Today!

WCI now has a new online look, as an improved website launches today to provide visitors with easier access to documents, statistics and data.  The new WCI website has the same URL ( and includes all the current information in a new format that will be easier to access, more compatible for mobile devices, and more interactive.

Among some of the new features:

  • An interactive map providing links to state-specific data;
  • Individual state maps featuring Congressional districts and lock and dam locations, with active links to Senators’ and House Members’ websites;
  • New membership section where prospective members can join WCI directly through the website;
  • Integrated social media buttons for improved connectivity, as well a dedicated feature highlighting real-time feeds from WCI’s Twitter account

Visitors can find information through drop-down menus for About Us, the Waterways System, Membership, Key Issues, Media Center, Get Involved, and a dedicated Action Center. Come explore our fresh look! w


Industry Calendar

August 7-9: Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association (GICA) 114th Annual Seminar (New Orleans, LA. Intercontinental Hotel) Visit and register here.

October 13-16: 108th American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) Annual Convention (Norfolk, VA, Hilton Norfolk The Main) Visit

October 16-18: American Waterways Operators’ 75th Anniversary Fall Convention and Board of Directors Meeting (San Diego, CA, Fairmont Grand Del Mar). Visit

November 6-8: WCI/Informa Economics/Waterways Journal 16th Annual Waterways

Symposium (Pittsburgh, PA, Fairmont Hotel). Visit

December 4-6: International Workboat Show (New Orleans, LA). Visit

December 5: Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) 20th Annual River Bell Awards Luncheon (Paducah, KY, Paducah McCracken County Convention Center). Visit

Capitol Currents is published by:


Deb Calhoun – Editor

Michael J. Toohey – Publisher

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