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AIWA Members Urge Creation of Intracoastal Waterway Commission

Private docks along the AIWW in Florida demonstrate how the waterway is an integral part of life there.

Private docks along the AIWW in Florida demonstrate how the waterway is an integral part of life there.

Kate Lynch took this photo of the AIWW at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Kate Lynch took this photo of the AIWW at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Fishing boats at a marina on a bend in the waterway in Georgia.

Fishing boats at a marina on a bend in the waterway in Georgia.

At their annual meeting on November 19 through 21, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association (AIWA) passed a resolution calling upon Congress to create a five-state Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Commission. The Commission members would include representatives appointed by each state's governor, the Corps and members from the commercial and recreational waterway industries. Members would be charged with overseeing the management of this regional waterway to provide sufficient maintenance and operation funding, promote safe navigation conditions, propose Short Sea Shipping opportunities and enhance economic output to the benefit of the Atlantic Coast Region, its communities and citizens.

"We need to recognize the waterway as what it really is - an interstate water transportation system. The formation of this commission would not only recognize this fact but will ensure that all stakeholders play a role in keeping the waterway open and safe for commercial navigation. I think that the AIWW is the perfect waterway for a Short Sea Shipping program or as MARAD is now calling it - America's Marine Highway," said Rosemary Lynch, executive director of AIWA.

More than 80 people attended the meeting, which was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jacksonville, Florida.

The technical program included Corps of Engineers reports from Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah and Jacksonville and sessions on Regional Dredged Material Planning for the AIWW; Managing a Waterway Within a Regional Environment; Regional Waterway Economics, and a special session entitled "Waterway Users Don't Know Regional Boundaries", which included presentations on kayaking the waterway, on commercial use of the waterway, and on the Florida Waterway System.

Texts of all presentations are on the organization's web site: www.atlintracoastal.org.

Members of the AIWA are working to convince Congress of the necessity of funding the waterway. In her annual report to members, Executive Director Rosemary Lynch stated that she visited Washington D.C. along with AIWA board members and a delegation from FIND (Florida Inland Navigation District) last February to meet with the House and Senate members who represent the waterway.

"By the time we left, 33 members or their staff met with us, and we were able to convince them to request additional funding. This was a bit difficult with several who decided that they would not request any additional funding for any project that they considered pork. We have a lot more educating to do with these members," she said.

WATER TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM
One of the major obstacles to funding for the AIWW is that the waterway is not recognized or appropriated as a water transportation system. Although the AIWW was permanently authorized in the 1939 River and Harbors Act, the funding is appropriated by each state which then makes the projects earmarks according to the current Administration. We have been trying to get this changed and we are pleased that Congressman Brown (R-SC) is working with us to develop language that will reauthorize the AIWW as a waterway system. At our request Brown's staff is working with us to submit language that would create a program similar to the Mississippi River Commission. Congressman Brown serves on the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

Several Board members and the Executive Director met with BG Joseph Schroedel, Commander of the Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Division, to discuss his regionalization initiative and how we could play a role in order to foster more state support for the AIWW; short sea shipping and the benefits of using the AIWW as a pilot program; the status of the regional dredged material management plan; improvement of the Corps web pages so that they are more user-friendly; and the status of the 2008 work plan.
General Schroedel has recommended to Corps headquarters that the AIWW be a pilot for Short Sea Shipping.

"I had the opportunity to sit with LTG Van Antwerp, Commander Civil Works, at a Corps meeting in Charleston and he agreed that the AIWW would be a good fit for the MARAD project," said Lynch. "Congressman Brown has met with MARAD officials and they are very anxious to begin a pilot on the AIWW. If this comes to fruition, it will mean more dredging opportunities and finally using the AIWW to its full potential," she said.

"We are continuing to work with state and local governments in each waterway state - Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida -- to encourage partnerships to help supplement needed dredging funds. Florida and North Carolina are contributing funds to dredge problem areas in their states. Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) agrees that state support is necessary to keep the waterway in Georgia open for navigation. Working with AIWA, Kingston organized several meetings in Georgia with state and local officials and leaders in the business community to develop a plan of action to accomplish this goal. Everyone agreed that an economic study is necessary to assess the value of the waterway to the state's economy. The results of this study will be presented during the conference," Lynch reported.

"Since the AIWW is valued by commercial and recreational users we are trying to get dredging added as an authorized expenditure to several recreational trust funds. We have started a dialog with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and plan to meet with them this summer to discuss the inclusion of dredging projects in the Sportfish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund," said Lynch.
Rosemary Lynch is a member of several coalitions on behalf of AIWA members. As a member of the Water Resources Coalition, she gave a briefing to Congressional staffers in January 2008 outlining AIWW issues and funding needs. She frequently speaks to boating and professional groups, and maintains contact with numerous magazines and newspapers as part of her public relations function, in addition to maintaining the organization's web site as a source of news and waterway information.

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW) extends 1200 miles from Norfolk, Virginia to Key West, Florida. Some lengths consist of natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays, and sounds; others are man-made canals. Congress authorized the creation of the AIWW in 1919 and the entire waterway was completed in 1940. The US Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining the waterway.
Next year's meeting will be held on November 18 - 20 in Savannah, Georgia, and will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the organization.

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