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Honoring An Old Friend; Making Progress on the AIWA

I visited an interesting aggregate dredging operation in Southern Oklahoma in August, where TXI was christening the dredge Mr. Tommy. The dredge is named for Tommy Wetta, who had worked with the plant operators on improving their production prior to his death in 2004. When TXI purchased a new dredge for this operation – the Bells/Savoy operation – they were happy to name the dredge after him, and to invite Tommy’s grandchildren to christen it.

It was an enjoyable day, and we office-bound folks were happy to be outside in the sun, touring the dredge and eating a good Oklahoma barbecue lunch.

What made this project different from any that I’ve seen before was the fact that they are pumping the material across the Red River into Texas, where the processing plant and sales are, eliminating a 25-mile drive around to the Oklahoma operation. Standing near the booster pump, you can just see the top of the plant and the piles of product across the Red River in Texas, where sales to that fast-growing region are brisk.

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Rosemary Lynch, director of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association (AIWW) had some good news to report when we spoke at the end of September. Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia has held two meetings in Savannah to discuss Intracoastal Waterway issues, and has convinced the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to do an economic study of Georgia’s portion of the waterway. Since some of the most critically shoaled areas of the waterway are in Georgia, attention by this state representative is an important step in returning these stretches to the authorized depth of 12 feet, which will allow recreational and commercial boats to use the entire 1200-mile waterway. For years, boats have had to either venture into the Atlantic Ocean in places or risk going aground in the waterway.

The organization is meeting in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in November, and Lynch has invited both Congressman Henry E. Brown, Jr., and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to address the members on the situation on the waterway in their state, where it has silted to four feet and less in places.

Both Brown and Graham applauded the passage of the 2007 Water Resources Development Act, and so both have an interest in water projects and, it is hoped, in navigation issues. If they can be convinced to follow Jack Kingston’s lead and focus attention on the South Carolina stretch of the waterway, we will be another step closer to returning unrestricted navigation from Norfolk to Miami.

The meeting, to be held Thursday and Friday, November 15th and 16th at the Kingston Plantation in Myrtle Beach, has a number of presentations of interest, including talks by Corps of Engineers representatives from the Norfolk, Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah and Jacksonville Districts on the waterway in their districts, collection of economic data about the waterway, safety issues, and waterway access.

Historian William Crawford’s talk on his book Florida’s Big Dig about digging the waterway from 1881 to 1935 sounds like a “don’t miss” to me. See Events on page 16 to find out how to sign up.

Judith Powers, Editor

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