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Presidents 2009 Budget A Step Backward for Atlantic Waterway

The federal budget for 2009 released by President Bush on February 4 is a discouraging step backward for one of the nation’s most critical waterways, according to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association (AIWA).

The $2.2 million in the White House budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Intracoastal Waterway through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida ignores serious navigation risks that commercial and recreational users of the 1,200 mile water highway face every day, and threatens its very future, the association noted.

“The budget is a token amount, given that the Army Corps needs approximately $30 million to properly maintain the waterway” said David Roach, AIWA Chairman and Executive Director of the Florida Inland Navigation District. “The nation’s waterways have been ignored for far too long and the American people already suffer the consequences of neglecting critical infrastructure. The lack of maintenance funding will be catastrophic to the economies of every state along the waterway unless Congress steps in and dramatically increases the President’s proposal as it did last year.”

Roach noted that the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway brings over $18 billion annually to the state of Florida alone. Studies have shown that the four other states also gain tremendous economic benefit from the waterway.

“Using barges is a much less expensive way to transport commercial goods up and down the East Coast,” said Stephen Furlough, president of Furlough Marine Management and an AIWA director. “It reduces highway congestion while being the most environmentally sustainable mode of transport available. Instead of cutting funds for maintenance, the White House should be looking at ways to better use this waterway to serve the nation.”

According to Rosemary Lynch, the association’s executive director, Short Sea Shipping – barging goods away from major ports to intermodal transportation hubs – is an excellent example of an alternative use.

“This U.S. Dept of Transportation initiative would create a more efficient shipping system, and the East Coast, using the waterway, would be an excellent place to begin,” Lynch said. “It just makes good economic and environmental sense.”

Based in Raleigh North Carolina, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association promotes the continuation and further development of waterborne commerce and recreation on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. The Association advocates for regular maintenance dredging and adequate maintenance to support and promote safe, cost-effective navigation.

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