Posts Tagged ‘waterways’

Arkansas Governor’s Waterway Conference, October 4-6, 2010

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Recently, I attended the Annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Waterborne Transportation in Little Rock, Arkansas.   (For more information visit While I arrived on Tuesday Morning and departed Wednesday afternoon, the conference was a great forum to learn about the issues facing waterway operations in the Arkansas and Oklahoma river systems.

Top takeaways from the Conference:

  1. Waterways in Arkansas remain concerned over funding and the Corps budget, especially the Ouachita system, which is classified as a low-use waterway.
  2. Local participation in waterway infrastructure is critical – including public boat tours and Congressional visits.  Washington wants to be responsive to its constituents, but the local constituents need to show up and communicate the same message that waterways are important.
  3. Some grains are now moving in the waterway system in Oklahoma, along with the scraps and other materials.
  4. Richard Grenville gave a good overview of the Panama Canal expansion, especially on the economies of scale that the larger containerships are able to generate for vessel operators, but that the Gulf export market needs to work hard on supporting grain shipments from being diverted to other gateways (such as the PNW).
  5. McClellan-Kerr waterway has some priorities that must be addressed in the system, including a casting ball that may fail at one lock and other structural pieces that need replacing.
  6. The fight to separate the White and the Arkansas rivers from merging remains a major challenge, especially as headcuts continue to be made in the channels.
  7. Will the Red River every be extended to Dallas or at least to Texarkana?  While it is a longer transit than by truck, it would provide a link for inland navigation to one of the largest cities in North America.
  8. The new P&G report, as well as increased environmental pressures, will eventually make their way to water operations.  A continued focus on waterway environmental related actions (Clean Water Act and other related EPA rulings related to who owns water in the U.S.) or flood reduction goals may severely limit future waterway operations if the shift towards water quality overtakes all other waterway related issues.
  9. “Perception is 9/10th of all political will”.
  10. No matter the modeling before a lock is built, something may go wrong.
  11. There were several people from the Arkansas Economic Development -a good sign that people are at least paying attention to water and water related economic development.
  12. Very interesting research project in Arkansas about deploying medical response teams on waterways in Arkansas.
  13. The Inland Marine Transportation System (IMTS) working group report is out, which focuses on Corps reliability and systems wide standards.
  14. Presentations on organizational activities was very helpful to me, even if they did not fit the waterway (policy or operations) of the Tuesday panels.

My presentation is posted here. The conference , I spoke about the message regarding waterways. I identified three main audiences for waterway information: shippers, planners, and politicians. There are ways to improve the perception of waterways, of which I mention the PIANC WG report on Performance Indicators for Inland Waterways (which I provided some assistance) and the Smartrivers Conference.

Implications for the Southeast:

The irony is that the Southeast, in regards to tonnage, is one of the largest waterway network users in the world.  If we ignore the implications of reduced waterway traffic, may lead to increased traffic on other modes, including additional highway investment, while also leading the more expensive exports for bulk products (not only grains, but also chemicals that move on the inland waterway system).

The Erie Canal and the Future of Transportation

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Recently traveling in Upstate New York, we passed by one of the locks of the Erie Canal (No 25).  It is clear people do not understand how the system of locks and dams works.  At the TRB summer conference, someone asked me how much does it cost to sent a boat through the lock. I said it was free, as the fees where paid for at the “gas pump”.   But also, people do not understand how important the Eire Canal was in transforming New York’s, and America’s, early economy.

But this investment did not last for long, as demonstrated in the nearby town of Clyde, where I witnessed a CSX train rattling on the nearby tracks. The Canal, originally conceived as a folly, generated tremendous wealth for New York State, but it was the development of the railroads that lead to the Canal’s role as the premier western gateway fading into a foot note into history books.

Today, the Canal hearkens to simpler times, and the Finger Lakes region continues to struggle with its economic future – one based on water for recreation and agriculture, not commercial navigation.  There is a lesson here: simply depending upon transportation alone does not guarantee economic success.  But the legacy of great men should inspire us to dream great things today – things that will influence our country’s economic  future through competitive transportation.

The Three Questions for Inland Waterways

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Wayne McCormick runs the America’s Marine Highway website .

He asked me what were the three most important questions limiting waterway use in America, and hopes to develop an ongoing series of interviews with various people in the industry.  You can read my answers on his website, as well as others, including many leaders in the Maritime Industry.

How the Mighty May Fall by John Bernard

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Attached is a link to the an interesting report written by LCR John Bernard, USN, for the American Military University.  The paper discusses how important the waterways are to the nation’s economy, but also the vulnerabilities that water faces when considering security and system restoration after an event.  Oftentimes, we think about the importance of the bridges to transportation, but forget the value of cargo that travel underneath the bridge.

How the Mighty May Fall

Author:  John Bernard
J. G. Bernard, LCDR, USN
PAO Community Manager/BUPERS 314D
Bureau of Naval Personnel – THREE
5720 Integrity Drive
Millington, TN 38055-0003
The US Army Corps of Engineers has done several foreseic studies of lock and dam closures.  You can read these reports at