President Donald stood this week on the bank of the Ohio River before 400 steelworkers, coal miners, and construction workers with barges of coal parked behind him. Amid departures from his text to chastise those he called “obstructionists,” President Donald touted his plan to spend $1 trillion to rebuild the nation’s airports, roads, bridges and tunnels and all other elements of American infrastructure.
With barges as his background canvas, he told of lapses and collapses in the nation’s inland waterways. He cited a gate failure at the Markland Locks on the Ohio River that took five months to repair. He pointed to a massive section of a canal wall that collapsed near Chicago, delaying shipping. [See speech video.]
A release from the White House press office coincided with President Donald’s remarks. Regard inland waterways, the release said:
The infrastructure of America’s inland waterways has been allowed to fall apart, causing delays and preventing the United States from achieving its economic potential. According to [the American Society of Civil Engineers], most of the locks and dams needed to travel the internal waterways are past their 50-year lifespan and nearly 50 percent of voyages suffered delays. Our inland waterway system requires $8.7 billion in maintenance and the maintenance backlog is only getting worse.
How nice of the president to notice the inland waterways of America need work. Much of the time, that maintenance responsibility falls to the Army Corps of Engineers. “The Corps plans, builds, operates and maintains … a wide range of water resources facilities,” according to its civil-works inventory website. Here’s its workload:
The Corps maintains approximately 12,000 miles of inland waterways with 220 locks at 171 sites; and approximately 300 deep-draft and over 600 shallow-draft coastal channels and harbors (including on the Great Lakes), which extends 13,000 miles, and includes 21 locks, more than 900 other coastal structures, and 800 coastal and inland bridges.
This is the failing inland waterway system that’s in such horrible shape President Donald promises to fix it, as he said in his speech, using American construction workers, American coal, American steel, American aluminum, etc.
Then why does his fiscal 2018 federal budget propose a 22-percent cut — about $1 billion — from the Corp’s civil-works budget? If he’s touting a $1 trillion overall plan to address all the nation’s infrastructure needs, why’s he penny-pinching the Corps’ ability to address all the waterway issues he pointed to in front of 400 American workers in Cincinnati?
Think any of those coal and steel workers cheering during his speech will notice President Donald’s mouth says one thing and his budget pen says another?
photo credit: Greg Lynch, WHIO TV