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AIWA updates on Corps: “USACE has hired 5,000 new engineers, however they have lost 4,000 to retirements or transfers to other federal agencies”

Posted on May 3, 2023

On April 26th, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Energy & Water Development held a hearing on the FY24 Budget request for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Bureau of Reclamation. The budget request included funding for every state along the waterway, and for our partners in New Jersey. The totals in the budget are $28.277M and $2.852M for the AIWW, and NJIWW as shown in the table below.

At the hearing, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Mike Connor, USACE Chief of Engineers General Scott Spellmon, and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton were invited by the committee to testify on the budget request. If interested, you can view a recording of the hearing by clicking here.

One item we are tracking closely is the allocation of funding provided by Congress in previous appropriations bills and and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). When asked about their workforce capacity, General Spellmon discussed the USACE workforce issues as both a challenge and an opportunity. USACE has hired 5,000 new engineers, however they have lost an estimated 4,000 to retirements or transfers to other federal agencies. This workforce gap is requiring the Corps to increase their workload with outside firms while changing their internal culture to meet demands of the historic levels of funding for USACE.

Looking forward, the great unknown is how the debt limit discussions will impact the development of the final FY24 appropriations bills but we should learn much more this month with the upcoming meetings between President Biden and House and Senate leadership. The first round of in-person meetings is scheduled for May 9. We remain cautiously optimistic that the debt limit will be raised in the upcoming weeks which will allow for the appropriations process to continue during the summer. Currently, we have projects under contract and moving forward in every state along the waterway and do not have any major concerns that they will be stalled at this time.

AIWA “On the Road” Stakeholder Visits

April and May, 2023

AIWA Visits American Cruise Lines

Photos CW: Brad Pickel with Scott Bauby and Capt. Tim O’Connor of American Cruise Lines; View of lounge and upper deck on the American Star docked in Savannah, GA on May 2, 2023.

On May 2, AIWA Executive Director Brad Pickel was invited to meet with Scott Bauby, Vice President of Marine Operations for American Cruise Lines (ACL), and Captain Tim O’Connor aboard the American Star docked in Savannah, Georgia. The ACL is a proud member of the AIWA and represents a unique and growing segment of AIWA stakeholders through their cruising operations.

Brad was invited to tour the vessel to better understand the value of ACL’s operations to the national and local economies. ACL’s cruisers are typically seasoned cruisers who are choosing between spending their money on U.S. or European river cruises, enjoy supporting local economies through on-site excursions, generally more affluent and willing to pay for a 5-star experience, and often repeat customers. Local communities welcome the ACL vessels and some locations truly roll out the red carpet.

We are excited to work with the ACL team to further our understanding of their operations, where their customers come from, and the economic benefits they provide to our nation. They are committed to being an active partner of AIWA. If you are interested in learning more, we invite you to visit the American Cruise Lines website and view the presentation by Kristin Meira, Director of Government Affairs, from the 2022 AIWA Annual meeting in Norfolk, VA.

Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Inspection Tour

In April, the AIWA was invited to participate in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Inspection Tour in Florida. The tour included over 20 presentations as participants made their way from Stuart to Fernandina Beach, Florida. After a three-year hiatus, we had the pleasure to once again join our Florida colleagues in viewing ongoing projects and discussing opportunities and challenges in maintaining this section of the waterway.

During a presentation pictured above, AIWA Executive Director Brad Pickel was asked to share on the role of the AIWA on the waterway. In addition to providing general information about the organization, Brad highlighted our efforts on securing federal funding for the waterway, and tracking the execution of the funding for waterway maintenance. In his comments, he updated the participants on recent funding success in FY23 and the BIL, and the current status of the FY24 appropriations process. This trip is an invaluable opportunity to spend extended time with the community of waterway managers on the local, state and federal levels, and we are grateful for the opportunity to participate.

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