gation, marine surveying, dredging and construction
activities. The Coast Guard and Army Corps also
have developed a waterways action plan (WAP) over
the last 20 years to maintain maritime safety, security
and stewardship. The WAP provides thresholds for
implementing restrictions to such things as tow size,
barge-to-horsepower ratio and, if needed, restricting
access to the river while hazardous conditions exist.
“We have a lot of missions and we have a lot of
responsibility. … Our waterways aren’t getting any
bigger or any deeper, but yet the demands being placed
on our waterways are clearly becoming more complex
each year,” Dittman said.
“From a management standpoint, each of the inland
waterways have their own unique characteristics,” he
An example of this is found in Louisiana and
Mississippi, where reconstruction of the waterways
after storms and hurricanes is common, as are post-recovery response operations. To the north, the service
has to contend with ice closing rivers and waterways
or causing damage to boats.
Any marine casualty has the potential to disrupt the
normal flow of riverborne commodities and impact our
“The end goal will be to keep commerce moving
safely, even if it is at a reduced rate,” Dittman said.
The Eighth District has major commands in St. Louis;
Memphis, Tenn.; and Louisville, Ky., along with sub-units
disbursed throughout the waterways system to ensure
maritime safety, security and environmental stewardship.
“Employing the full suite of Coast Guard authorities,
capabilities and partnerships, we collaboratively plan
and prepare to respond to and recover from incidents
that occur along the waterway,” said Rear Adm. David
Callahan, district commander. “In a just-in-time econ-
omy, protecting and maintaining this vital system is
not just a matter of economic security, it is a matter of
The Coast Guard is the nation’s leading maritime
law enforcement agency and has broad jurisdictional
authority. The service enforces marine safety laws as
well as those that protect waters from the discharge of
oil, hazardous substances and non-indigenous invasive
species. The Eighth District also provides mission-critical
command-and-control support for forces responding to
environmental disasters in the maritime domain.
The service carries out ports and waterways management tasks and is responsible for providing a safe,
“Hands down, the most efficient way to move bulk
cargo is through the inland waterways transportation
system,” he said.
Goods moving through the system each day include
gasoline, oil, bulk liquids, refined products, wheat,
grain and chemicals.
The service said some of the responsibilities of
the waterways management branch in New Orleans
includes minimizing disruptions to the movement of
goods and people, maximizing recreational enjoyment
and environmentally sound use of navigable waters,
and maintaining robust waterway restoration capabilities when disruptions do occur.
Capt. Kevin Oditt, chief of prevention policy for
the Eighth District, noted that on a daily basis, district
service members handle vessel groundings, collisions,
bridge maintenance, equipment failures, fires and
explosions and crew member injuries.
“Our people really are multimission,” he said. n
A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew surveys
the region surrounding Cape Girardeau, Mo., as part a joint
response to flooding in the Midwest Jan. 3. Coast Guard
aircrews were brought to Cape Girardeau to be used as
search-and-rescue platforms and monitor high water and
flooding in the region.