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USA - ASCE Panel Examines How Waterway Investments Make Environmental, Economic Sense

As part of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) March 3 release of its Report Card For America’s Infrastructure, the organization hosted a panel discussion focused on how the development, operation and maintenance of the nation’s ports and waterways has far-reaching benefits, both economically and environmentally.

The session, titled “Inland Waterways & Ports Poised To Help Us Green Our Future,” featured Rep. Garret Graves, a Republican representing Louisiana’s Sixth Congressional District; Bill Hanson, senior vice president of Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Corporation; Bob Gallagher, mayor of Bettendorf, Iowa, and co-chair of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative; and Jennifer Belknap Williamson, director of engineering for the Port of Portland.

Casey Dinges, executive adviser for ASCE, moderated the discussion.

In jumpstarting the conversation, Dinges pointed out that the nation’s ports and waterways are frequently on the “front lines” of natural disasters and climate change, including high water and hurricanes. And yet, waterways are the key to much-needed efficiencies within the U.S. transportation system.

“A single barge can carry the same as 70 tractor trailers,” Dinges said. “Investing in inland waterways, including locks and dams, can take strain off our other transportation modes.”

With that in mind, panelists emphasized the need for infrastructure investment to have a resiliency component.

Gallagher pointed to the Resilience Revolving Loan Fund, contained in the STORM Act, which was signed into law January 1. That act allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide grants to states and municipalities in the form of revolving loans to tackle risk reduction projects.

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