U.S. COAST GUARD
An aerial view of the Mississippi River in St. Louis Dec. 5 shows the crowded conditions for shipping along the river due
to historically low water levels resulting from one of the worst droughts in more than 50 years.
lost on the general public, as is the mission of agencies
like the Army Corps of Engineers, said James E. Walker
Jr., chief of the Army Corps’ navigation branch.
“We’re finally getting infrastructure into the vernacular,” he said. “You’re hearing roads, rails and runways.
We’re trying to get ‘rivers’ into that mix. We’ve got people thinking about infrastructure. Now we’ve got to get
more public awareness about maritime infrastructure.
“A real bottom line for us is: ‘what do we do, and why
is it important?’” Walker added, in reference to the
responsibilities of the Army Corps’ Civil Works Program,
and the navigation branch for which he has oversight.
He explained that in addition to its military mission,
the Army Corps of Engineers, through the Civil Works
Program, is responsible for ensuring the safe movement of vessels by constructing and maintaining the
nation’s navigation channels, harbors, locks and dams,
and by regulating water levels on inland waterways.
“What we’re doing is providing a navigation infrastructure that is reliable, efficient and resilient to
enable American goods to compete in a global marketplace,” he said.
So important is the health, rehabilitation and con-
tinued development of the nation’s inland rivers that
stakeholders from industry and navigation trade
groups believe funding falls far short. Industry advo-
cates, through a federal advisory group called the
Inland Waterway Users Board, are pushing for legisla-
tion on a water source development authorization bill
that would allow industry to further subsidize key cap-
ital expenditures over the next 20 years.