|FYI — June 2004|
|By Brad Dunn|
For fiscal year 2005, the current number of dollars allotted to maintain the southern portion of the Ditch is exactly zero. Dredging the waterway is the job of the Army Corps of Engineers, and if it doesn’t get enough money to keep up with shoaling, the AIWW will not be navigable, let alone safe, for much longer. (At presstime, the budget was still awaiting approval from Congress.)
“This budget situation is a real mess. The AIWW is literally crumbling before our eyes,” said Rosemary Lynch, executive director of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association, a recreational boating advocacy group based in Alexandria, Virginia. Lynch is leading a grass-roots effort (www.atlintracoastal.org) to restore funding to maintain it.
Completed in 1940, winding from the Chesapeake Bay to Miami, the AIWW is the jugular vein of boating on the East Coast. Roughly 13,000 recreational boaters and many more commercial operators transit this part of the Ditch every year. Its mandated depth is 12 feet, yet in most places it’s only eight feet deep, and silting in some areas has made it as shallow as three feet. Still other portions, such as the Lockwood Folly Inlet in North Carolina, have been closed due to shoaling.
Shallow water can spell serious damage to powerboats, and the navigational charts that boaters carry, which are sometimes out of date, offer little protection against the waterway’s rapidly changing contours and depths. Moreover, every segment of the AIWW that shuts down results in more boaters making oceanic passages, which may increase the strain on Coast Guard search and rescue operations.
In February 2002, the Corps launched a full economic analysis of the AIWW to determine its real monetary value to recreational and commercial boaters. Though the study is still ongoing, the Corps reported it had found immediate causes of concern. “AIWW users are experiencing increasing damage to equipment as they attempt to navigate the waterway,” the Corps said in its preliminary report.
The news of the zero-dollar allotment couldn’t come at a worse time for the Corps and for those boaters who cruise the AIWW. The Corps says it already has $835 million worth of dredging work that it can’t afford to do.
Who dealt the apparently fatal blow to the Ditch? The Office of Management and Budget. Why? The OMB has decided that “low-use” waterways will no longer be maintained with federal dollars. These are defined as waterways that carry less than one billion ton-miles of freight—a description that applies to the Ditch.
Completed in 2000, the 1,053-foot Burj Al Arab is the world’s tallest hotel building, soaring higher than the Eiffel Tower, and is packed with amenities fit for royalty. Next time you’re cruising in Dubai, check it out. There’s no telling when they’ll build one designed to look like a powerboat.
This article originally appeared in the May 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.