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Using ton-miles is a specious method of judging the value of a waterway.

Waterway problems continue as a result of reduction or elimination of maintenance funds for the waterways.

A case in point is the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, a protected, inland route from Boston to Miami.

The Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer published an article on the problem in April, echoing the fears of the entire inland waterways industry, and citing the fact that AIWA maintenance is not in the administration’s budget request for FY 2005.

Bottlenecks have been created by lack of dredging in various places in the waterway, specifically At Lockwoods Folly, North Carolina, where shoaling has effectively closed the waterway since December. Other shallow spots in North Carolina, at Carolina Beach Inlet at Beaufort, South Carolina, and Jekyll Island, Georgia are causing shippers to light-load their barges, nose into the bank to await high tide, or find other shipping methods.

The authorized depth of the AIW is 12 feet, but the low tide depth at Lockwoods Folly Inlet is six feet, and four feet near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Shippers who need 12 feet of water run aground regularly in the channel. The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association (AIWA) reports that one tow company owner estimates that his company has one grounding every 24 hours. Another cited annual repairs from damage resulting from improper depth cost them an average of $287,000 a year.

If it continues to be neglected, the AIW will disappear, at a phenomenal loss to the communities along the waterway, as well as the economy of the entire region. Included in this equation is the increase in emissions and stress on the roads if the waterway’s barge traffic is re-routed to land routes. One barge can carry 1,500 tons. It would take 58 trucks to carry the same amount.

The economy of the East Coast includes an immense recreational boating community, that is growing. This community uses the inland waterway, and all the states recognize these boaters as a major economic force.

The rationale for leaving this waterway out of the budget is the specious ton-mile method of judging the value of a waterway. The Office of Management and Budget has adopted a standard of eliminating maintenance funds for waterways with less than one billion ton-miles of cargo. With a five-year average of 600 million ton-miles, the AIW falls short of this standard, and has been left out without regard to the economic impact of this course.

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