The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), the 1,100-plus-mile coastal waterway stretching from Norfolk, Virginia, to Miami, Florida, is getting better. Over the last five years more funding to dredge and maintain the waterway for both recreational and commercial vessels has made shoaling less of a problem, but navigational issues remain. This was the focus at the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association (AIWA) annual meeting held recently in Charleston, South Carolina. Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is a founding member of the waterway interest group, which includes commercial and recreational users, local governments, and associations.
“We’re gaining recognition and have seen an increase in funding for dredging projects that keep the waterway a viable transportation system,” said BoatUS Manager of Government Affairs and AIWA Vice Chairman David Kennedy. “Our goal is to keep the momentum going and continue to grow awareness of this vital waterway that is important to recreational boating.” In addition to being a resource to local boaters, some 13,000 “snowbirds” make the annual migration on the ICW from the Northeast to Florida each year.
The authorized depth of the waterway is 12 feet, but areas remain where shoaling has been reduced to less than 5 feet. Much of the responsibility for maintaining the waterway falls to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ limited operating and maintenance budget. Some states have begun to pick up the slack and have included funds for dredging projects, including South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida.
On the slate during the two-day meeting were a series of updates, reports and discussions revolving around how to improve ICW navigation. These included an outlook on Washington politics and its affect on funding, commercial-access challenges, engineering with nature in mind, managing dredge material and regulatory policy updates for maintenance dredging, tracking sediments, and maritime community information sharing.
Brad Pickel, executive director of AIWA, said, “We’ve shown that the waterway is a critical part of the nation’s water highway infrastructure, and we need to keep the pressure up to make more investments in improving navigation.”
For more information about the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association visit atlanticintracoastal.org.