MARINA DEL REY, Calif.--Despite a nearly $2 billion budget to maintain the nation's inland waterways and harbors, it simply isn't enough for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to meet all the maritime industry’s infrastructure needs, Maj. Gen. Ed Jackson told attendees at the winter meeting of the California Marine Affairs and Navigation Conference held here Jan. 21.
Jackson, the Corps’ deputy commanding general for Civil and Emergency Operations, covered a variety of topics while speaking to dredging industry representatives, environmental organizations and government agencies, and he said the Corps continues to look at the Panama Canal expansion project expected to be completed this year and at optimizing America's port infrastructure to accommodate the New Panamax ships that more than double cargo carrying capacity over Panamax ships.
"We're doing all we can on the Corps side to articulate the importance and the economies of scale that come with those types of vessels," said Jackson. "It's important to invest, not only in making our harbors more capable, but to make them more reliable."
Jackson said the Corps has three deepening projects in active construction in New York and New Jersey Harbor, Savannah Harbor and Delaware River ports. Nine harbors were recommended for deepening and seven others are under study, including one at Long Beach, California, he added.
Conference attendees asked the general what message resonates best with leaders in Washington that would cause them to invest a little bit more in the Corps' civil works program. Jackson told them, "risk of failure."
"What's that cost going to be?" asked Jackson. "Trying to change the mindset of investing after the fact, and trying to do some 'in front of the bow wave' investment, so we don't have to have that risk of failure. To me, that resonates. What's the risk of failure, not just to my little part of the world, but to the nation, economically and from a national security perspective?"
Jackson left attendees with a central message that emphasized the long history of partnership between the Corps and California: "Stay connected."
"I thank you for partnering with the Corps of Engineers; your role is important," said Jackson. "With water resources development in America, we don't have all the answers, we don't have the ability to do everything that needs to be done, nor do you alone. But if we're working together, in partnership with you and others, we can get much more done than any of us can do just operating by ourselves."
The conference included presentations on sediment management, environmental issues and surface transportation legislation, along with a workshop on sea level rise.