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Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association Fiscal Year 2025 Federal Funding Priorities

Posted on April 3, 2024

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW) extends over 1,100 miles from Norfolk, Virginia to Miami, Florida. Some lengths consist of natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays, and sounds while others are man-made canals. Congress authorized the creation of the AIWW in 1919 with construction of the entire waterway completed in 1940. Current estimates are that unmet maintenance needs of the waterway are approximately $56.5 million with an annual maintenance need of approximately $53 million (see back for details).

The USACE is authorized to maintain the waterway at a depth of 12 feet for most of its length, but inadequate funding has prevented this level of maintenance. Shoaling has created hazardous conditions for waterway users with several sections having reduced depths ranging from less than five feet at low tide. Shallow depths create a dangerous health and safety issue as smaller boats are forced to use the Atlantic Ocean and encounter rough seas. They often require Coast Guard assistance.

The AIWW is a U.S. DOT-designated Marine Highway that parallels Interstate 95. In a U.S. DOT report titled “Beyond Traffic 2045,” they estimated that freight movement throughout the nation will increase by 45% by 2040. Increased maintenance of the inland waterway system needs to be funded to support its portion of this increased freight movement.

Waterway maintenance projects lead directly to more American jobs since all dredging is done by our U.S.-flagged fleet. In addition, shipping products via the waterway is more cost effective than transporting products by other modes. Greater waterway depths increase the opportunities for more waterway shipping and job creation as the nation taps into increased economic development opportunities. Also, some items are so large that they can only be shipped along the AIWW.

The AIWW has a substantial amount of ongoing commercial activity. Products shipped include fuel oil, gasoline, asphalt, fertilizers, chemicals, wood chips, wood, limestone, sand, gravel, iron, steel, slag, lime, fabricated metal products, soybeans, vegetables, produce, and electrical machinery. We have examples of shipping routes reopening after maintenance dredging occurred in the AIWW.

Large post-Panamax vessel traffic is increasing and ports are undergoing deepening projects to accommodate the increased size. It is imperative for the waterway to be maintained to allow for materials to be shipped between ports along the AIWW. Along with offshore wind energy development, we expect new, water-dependent industries to be developed on the waterway. Investing in our waterways now will ensure future economic development opportunities for our rapidly growing coastal communities.

In Florida alone, the intracoastal waterway transports tons of commercial cargo and is utilized by over 216,000 recreational vessels, and estimated to provide $21.6 billion in economic impact, which includes over 236,500 jobs and over $3.9 billion in tax revenue.

Shipping on the Nation’s Intracoastal Highway leaves a lower carbon footprint than transporting by truck or train. In comparing fuel usage between shipping and trucking, shipping has an almost 400% increase in hauling capability. Also, the standard cargo capacity of a truck peaks at approximately 25 tons while the capacity of a barge hauling cargo can exceed 1,700 tons

American Cruise Lines capacity for all scheduled cruises in 2023 across its three vessels on the AIWW was 3,880 guests. This number is anticipated to increase in 2024 with the addition of their new Coastal Catamaran vessels.

In Fiscal Year 2025, the AIWA requests Congress continue the practice of establishing individual allocations for operations and maintenance of navigation projects. The AIWA requests that Congress allocate $75 million each for Additional Dredging Needs for Inland Waterways; Small, Remote, or Subsistence Navigation; and Navigation within the Corps’ Operations and Maintenance Budget. In addition, we support all efforts to increase funding via Congressionally Directed Spending Requests.

Summary of Financial Needs for the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW)

It is estimated that in order achieve the authorized dimension of the waterway there is a backlog maintenance cost of approximately $56,500,000, with the effort being similar throughout each of the Corps’ District boundaries. Significant progress has been made with the funding received in regular appropriations and BIL funding. Maintenance dredging and upland placement repair projects have reduced this backlog by over $69,000,000 from 2016 to 2024.

In addition, if we assume a fully constructed waterway at authorized dimensions, it is estimated that approximately $53,000,000 in funding would be required annually to provide for operation and maintenance activities. This amount has been recently reduced due to the several investments made to the waterway as a result of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law which have led to a more efficient operations of the project. In FY24, all appropriations to date totaled $48,527,000 which is a steady increase from FY23 total of $39,777,000. The current FY24 and FY25 Work Plans have not been released. The FY24 Work Plan is due to Congress in early May 2024.


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