Peter H. Stephaich is Chairman and CEO of Blue Danube Incorporated and Campbell Transportation Company. Currently, he is also Chairman of the Board of the Waterways Council, Inc. (WCI).
WCI is the only national organization that advocates for a modern, efficient and well-maintained system of inland waterways, including lock and dam infrastructure, and channel maintenance. IL Corn is a part of this diverse coalition.
This month, Chairman Stephaich weighed in on all things “inland.” Check out a few of his thoughts regarding locks and dams below and check out the interview in full here.
In your current position at the Waterways Council, Inc., give us a sense of JOB 1 looking ahead for this industry advocacy group.
WCI’s key goal in 2019 is to be included in any infrastructure legislation that could be developed, and, second to assure that the proposal does no harm to the inland waterways transportation industry. WCI’s constant drumbeat is achievement of the national goal of initiating construction of the $8.8 billion portfolio of inland modernization projects in the next 10 years with full and efficient funding for on-time and on-budget delivery and performance. WCI just completed 95 congressional meetings in mid-February. We have very strong bi-partisan support for our inland waterway’s infrastructure initiative in Washington.
If there are just three things you can help WCI accomplish, on behalf of its stakeholders, in your current role, then what would they be – and why?
As WCI Chairman, I intend to lend as much support to the effort to ensure that inland waterways’ lock and dam infrastructure is included in any infrastructure initiative ahead. I will also strongly support WCI’s work to educate new members of the 116th Congress about the importance of the inland waterways transportation system to the U.S. economy, competitiveness, national security, flood control, municipal water supply, and recreation, and the age of the infrastructure on the system that facilitates those benefits to the Nation. Finally, I will continue to broaden our very broad coalition that supports our WCI initiatives.
Inland operators depend heavily on the maintenance of inland waterways. The completion of Olmsted was, in many ways, a watershed moment for this industry. Still – there is much to be done. Has the USACE (US Army Corps of Engineers) done better in the last few years and do they have the tools and funding to get done what they need to do, in a timely fashion?
The Olmsted project was, in the end, a success story. Through the 2014 cost-share change from 50% funding from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund paid for by the tax that commercial operators pay ($0.29 cents/per gallon of diesel fuel consumed during operations)/50% Federal Treasury funding to 85% IWTF/15% Federal funds that occurred in the Water Resources Reform Development Act (WRRDA), Olmsted was completed four years ahead of schedule and $330 million under the post-authorization change budget. Benefits of $600 million/year were also realized four years earlier than anticipated. WCI’s key goal is to advocate for full and efficient funding of the Corps’ Civil Works mission which maintains the inland waterways system. We can achieve more Olmsted success stories with this full funding, as we have been receiving the last several fiscal years, but we should also consider a similar cost-share change ahead for all the priority projects to complete their construction and have them delivering national benefits faster.
Regarding Olmsted – something that has been described as the ‘Manhattan Project’ of the inland waterways – are you seeing efficiency gains from the completion of that project, as yet?
Absolutely. To go from often days of delay locking through Locks 52 and 53 to the now state of the art Olmsted lock has meant efficiency gains for operators and shippers, and to those who await delivery of the product. Feeding the world is a tough job, but efficient, modern infrastructure allows commercial transporters and American family farmers and other shippers to meet their obligations in a timelier way.