Stimulus is a boost for dredging projects

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The federal government’s stimulus package has turned out to be a boon for pleasure boaters who too often must detour around shoaled channels and silted harbors.

An estimated $1.9 billion of the $787 billion approved in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is earmarked for dredging. It’s part of a $4.6 billion allocation to the Army Corps of Engineers to rehabilitate the nation’s waterways, flood-control projects, hydroelectric power plants, and Corps-managed lakes and recreation areas, and help put Americans back to work.

Like much of the nation’s infrastructure, its waterways have been neglected, says BoatU.S.’s Ryck Lydecker, vice chairman of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association, a 200-member group that advocates for the ICW.

“Several hundred harbors are authorized for [routine] dredging,” Lydecker said. “But they have not been maintained. It has been hit-or-miss.”

With stimulus money, the Corps now plans to catch up on some of this backlog. A number of neglected harbors on the Great Lakes are on its list of dredging projects: Grand Haven, Harbor Beach, Holland Harbor, Little Lake, Luddington, Saugituck, St. Joseph, and the Saginaw, St. Clair and St. Mary’s rivers.

The New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway will get $1.26 million for dredging critically shoaled areas.

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, clogged by dangerous shoaling, will get a good scouring: $6.175 million for dredging at Palm Valley in North Florida and constructing a dredge spoil retention area; $5.9 million for dredging in Georgia; $4.4 million for dredging and dike construction along the ICW in North Carolina; $4 million for dredging and dike construction in South Carolina; and $1.75 million for bridge repairs in Virginia and along the Dismal Swamp Canal.

The Corps’ civil works list also includes extensive work on locks along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway; dredging in Long Beach, Morro Bay, and Richmond harbors in California; building a jetty on the Sacramento River at Mission Bay; repairing boat ramps on the Mississippi River between the Missouri and Ohio rivers; dredging in Mississippi’s Biloxi Harbor; repairing recreational facilities at a park along the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, N.C.; maintenance dredging on the Oregon Inlet, N.C., ocean bar; dredging the Cold Spring inlet in New Jersey; and paying for more law enforcement at the Clarence J. Brown Dam, an Ohio Corps project.

That’s just a few of the 892 operation and maintenance plans and 178 construction projects on the list. They are supposed to employ 57,400 workers directly and 64,000 indirectly.

“Many of these shallow-draft channels have been shortchanged for a decade,” said Lydecker. “Yet they are important to recreational boat traffic and small-boat commercial traffic – fishing boats, tow boats, water taxis. They need dredging.”

The promised dredging for the Atlantic ICW is a longtime dream come true for Rosemary Lynch, executive director of the AIWA for 10 years. “I am so excited about this,” she says. “We’re getting just over $22 million for the waterway.”

That should “go a long way” toward keeping the ICW open in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, where shoaling has been bad, says AIWA chair David Roach. “Getting money for Georgia is always a blessing and exciting.”

To make the Corps’ list, a project must be far enough along in planning to be executed quickly and result in jobs immediately. Lynch expects most of the work to be under way by September.

“Boaters will definitely see relief soon,” she said.

Roach says the next big challenge is to get enough funding into the Corps’ regular annual budget for maintenance dredging on the Atlantic ICW. He says that’s $48 million to $50 million a year for 1,300 miles of ICW.

The stimulus money “is the kind of money – and even more – that we need on a routine basis,” he says. The 2009 ICW dredging budget is $10 million.

— Jim Flannery

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Comments

2 comments on “Stimulus is a boost for dredging projects

  1. Robert NorVelle

    Now let’s see, if the government said to the taxpayers “we are going to raise your taxes by $1.9 billion and spend the money on dredging,” how do you think those taxpayers would respond?  But if the government just said to the general public “we are going to increase our dredging operations on public waterways to make them more accessable and safer for you the public, and we are prepaired to spend $1.9 billion to do it,” would the public response be different, especially if no mention was made of tax increases?
    The public (including us boaters) will lose in the end on this “stimulis package,”  even though it looks like we are getting something for our money.  If we could afford all the “stimulis” projects (like dredging), we would probably do them and pay for them as we go.  But no, we are being forced to spend our future and our children’s future NOW.
    It is a very bad deal for America.

  2. Crytopean

    Whetther the stimulus package was a good or bad idea unfortunately, is now a mute point. That industry advocates have been able to get some of that money directed to maintaining waterways and harbor “infrastructure” projects is a wonderful thing. The fact is that the commercial and recreational boating industries, fishing and coastal resources are an important – but often too lowly prioritized part of our economy.
    We throw money away in this country on special interest and social projects that have no intrinsic or commercial value to citizens as a whole and our waterways suffer from lack of funding because of such waste.
    I for one am thankful that our advocacy groups have been successful in obtaining some focus from this stimulus. I’m sure the 110,000 people who it will employ and hundreds of thousands, potentially millions of boaters, commercial watermen, sports enthusiasts, waterfront town and water dependent businesses will be equally as thankful.

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