As we go to press the National Waterways Council is holding its annual Legislative Summit in Washington D.C. Attendees are hearing from Sen. David Vitter ranking member of the Senate committee on Environment and Public Works; and Rep. Bill Shuster chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee who are informing attendees of the status of legislation and funding in congress – specifically the RAMP (Realize America’s Maritime Promise) Act which has growing congressional support and broad political support among waterways operators the dredging industry and other stakeholders. Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick is talking about the status of the Corps mission which has a mandate to maintain the nation’s waterways but with less and less funding.
Following the talks attendees will spread out through the house and senate office buildings to visit their senators and representatives armed with letters literature and lists of organizations agencies and individuals who support legislation and public policy providing adequate funding for the waterways.
Attention is centered on elected officials from states bordering the coasts and navigable inland waterways but I found during one summit that as a resident of land-locked Colorado visiting my representative was valuable. Though I didn’t talk to the congresswoman directly her staff was accommodating and interested in knowing about the waterways and dredging subjects not at the top of their agenda. That way when debate on the legislation was conducted she was informed on the topic and I hope inclined in favor of it.
In a February 1 news release the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) noted that “construction employment rose for the eighth consecutive month in January while construction spending in December increased for the ninth month in a row. Both totals were the highest levels in more than three years.” This good news impacts the sand and gravel dredging sector of our industry which provides aggregate for concrete and asphalt.
Ken Simonson AGC’s chief economist reported that while the construction industry lost more jobs during the recession than previously estimated it had added almost 300000 jobs in the past two years including nearly 100000 since September. “Meanwhile the steady rise in construction spending since last March suggests contractors will be hiring even more workers in the months ahead” he said.
Stock market investors are watching their numbers rise day by day and continuing good news from the construction industry is only one segment contributing to the raised hopes on the financial front accompanied by government spending cuts which in many cases are unwise and put our transportation and energy infrastructure at unnecessary risk.
One ramification of the reduced budget is that the Corps districts are curtailing travel for their employees who are conspicuous by their absence from events that usually have a high government presence. The annual HYPACK training conference in January which has ever been a major educational opportunity for Corps hydrographic surveyors this year had few Corps attendees. The Western Dredging Association (WEDA) will likely experience the same thing in 2013 in both its chapter meetings and annual meeting in August.
I’d like to acknowledge Marie Rausch our staff member who makes the location maps for some of our articles. She devised the very readable format which gives readers a clear view of the locations of these projects.