How the Tsunami Affected Some of Our Friends
In response to my worried email, David wrote: “Both me and my family are well and in fact we were holidaying in India during the Christmas and New Year season when the catastrophe hit. We were staying with my wife's sister in Chennai (Madras) when the quake struck. We only realized the extent of the devastation when we watched the news on CNN a couple of hours later. Anyway we got back to Malaysia on the 2nd of Jan and apart from what had happened we had a splendid holiday with the family. Thank God for that..”
Unfortunately, not everyone with friends and family in that part of the world received such a happy response, and we will continue to write, call and ask for news of our dredging colleagues in the area.
Waterways interests are still trying to draw the attention of Congress, and especially of the Bush Administration, to the fact that we are losing our navigation infrastructure. Thanks to individual congressmen, the Omnibus spending bill earmarked funds for vital projects, but there are some glaring omissions, specifically the fact that there was no money allocated to maintaining the Intracoastal Waterway in Georgia. The existence of this channel depends on its maintenance through five states, and if it becomes impassable in Georgia, it will choke off the $9 billion boating industry in Florida, as well as in Virginia and North and South Carolina.
In all, the bill contained about $500 million more for waterways that the administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requested. According to Worth Hager, president of the National Waterways Conference, this is about the amount Congress will usually exceed the OMB’s request.
Failure to pass a Water Resources Development Act means that there are no authorizations for new starts. At particular risk are the ageing locks and dams on the river system. A major failure of lock gates at Greenup Lock and Dam (mile 341 of the Ohio River) in 2003 reduced traffic to one lock for 57 days. According to one barge owner, it took 20 times as long to lock through. The main gates were fixed by re-routing funds from another application, but this is no way to run an infrastructure. Commerce depends on these navigable arteries, and repair and replacement should be authorized in a WRDA, and adequate money allocated to perform the job.
We have lost two more good friends: Tommy Wetta and King Fisher. I’ve been working on a full tribute to Tommy, and didn’t get everything in by press time. This will appear in the March/April issue, as will a similar tribute to King Fisher.