Capitol Currents Newsletter

A Strong Start to the New Year

March 9, 2023

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A Strong Start to the New Year

By Cherrie Felder, Chair, Waterways Council, Inc. Board of Directors


Last month I presided over Waterways Council, Inc.’s (WCI) Board of Directors meeting in Washington, DC. It was a first for many reasons. It was the first WCI Board meeting of 2023, the first of our 20th year, the first in-person Congressional fly-in for our members held in the Nation’s capital in two years after COVID-19 and Capitol Hill complex security closures, and the first to be chaired by a woman in WCI’s history.


I am gratified to serve as WCI’s Chair, having joined the organization’s predecessor campaign known as Waterways Work! around 2000, and being a founding member of WCI in 2003. I noted at the December 2022 meeting in Paducah when I assumed the chairmanship that I am aware of the big shoes of the former Chairs my high heels will endeavor to fill. I am honored to lead Waterways Council’s Board over the next two years and to be a part of this unique organization for the last 20.     


In 2023, we are off to a strong start; a new year, a new Congress, but WCI stays the course with the same stalwart mission. We’re about three months into the first session of the 118th Congress, and at our February Board meeting, WCI approved 2023 priorities which serve to guide our advocacy with Members of Congress. They are to:  


  • Secure Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 Energy and Water Development (E&WD) appropriations for the full amount supportable by annual diesel fuel tax receipts deposited into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), and any additional funding needs from the balance of the IWTF under the cost-share established in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022;
  • Obtain one new construction start as recommended by the Inland Waterways Users Board 2022 annual report (Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW)-Brazos River Floodgates);
  • Obtain an investigations new start for Bayou Sorrel Lock;
  • Oppose additional tolling, lockage fees, or other harmful charges for users of the inland waterways system.

A related WCI priority is to seek Congressional direct spending requests (earmarks) for the Navigation & Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) at $120 million, $75 million toward navigation construction, and $45 million toward ecosystem restoration programming. Also, WCI requests $50 million for the Lower Monongahela locks 2,3, and 4 , and $260 million for the GIWW-Brazos River Floodgates.


At the close of 2022, Congress passed a $1.7 trillion FY23 omnibus appropriations bill that extended funding through September 30 to avoid a government shutdown when Continuing Resolution monies were set to expire. The bill included Corps of Engineers Civil Works mission funding in the Energy & Water Development section of the omnibus bill at $8.66 billion, an increase of $62 million from FY22 appropriated funding, and $2.06 billion above the President’s FY23 budget request.


According to Senate summaries, the annual net economic benefit generated by the Corps’ Civil Works mission is estimated to be $89 billion -- a return of about $12 for every dollar expended -- with the total amount provided to improve the nation’s water infrastructure at $10.24 billion.  In a time of economic uncertainty, this return on investment is a true win for the entire country.


And while at its February 2023 meeting, WCI’s members hit the halls of Congress to call for modernization of the inland waterways system, and legislative advocacy continues 24-7 with our digital outreach to Congress. Text LOCKS to 313131 to have your voice heard on these important issues from wherever you are.


Over its 20 years, WCI has fought for the reliability of an efficient inland waterways system.  Join us in that effort today and in the decades ahead.




WCI Returns to In-Person Washington, DC Meetings and Capitol Hill Fly-In


For the first time since 2020, WCI held its Washington, DC Meetings and Fly-In in-person, February 7 - 9. One hundred visits were conducted by WCI members to House and Senate offices in the states of Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio.


The WCI Board of Directors approved the 2023 priorities for the organization, and they became the blueprint for the advocacy messages delivered during the Capitol Hill meetings with both Members and staff. 


A reception on Capitol Hill in the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee hearing room was held on February 8 and was strongly attended by numerous members of the House of Representatives, staffers, and former House member Rodney Davis (R-IL).


Earlier in the day, WCI Chair Cherrie Felder presented WCI’s 20th Annual Leadership Service Award to Rep. Sam Graves (R, MO-06) to recognize his leadership and championship of the nation’s inland waterways.



Thanks to our generous sponsors of WCI’s Annual Meeting and Waterways Symposium 2022


Platinum Sponsors


  • Canal Barge Company
  • CGB Inc.
  • CHS
  • Channel Shipyard Companies
  • Ingram Barge Company
  • The Port of Pittsburgh Commission


Gold Sponsors


  • Carlisle & Bray
  • Cooper Group of Companies
  • Crounse
  • Illinois Corn Growers Association
  • Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel Co.


Silver Sponsors


  • AEP River Transportation
  • Arcosa Marine
  • Campbell Transportation
  • International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers
  • LIUNA Lecet 



Legislator Profile: 

Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO)


In this issue of Capitol Currents, we profile another elected official who has championed the inland waterways: Congressman Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO)


Congressman Sam Graves is a lifelong resident of Missouri's Sixth Congressional District. He is a small businessman and a sixth-generation family farmer.


In Congress, Sam serves as Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. As Chairman, Sam leads the Committee as it has jurisdiction over all modes of transportation – the aviation system, highways and bridges, transit and rail transportation, pipelines, and maritime and waterborne transportation. His role in transportation is critical as he works on behalf of Missouri’s 34,000 highway miles, 10,400 bridges in need of maintenance and repair, and the district’s two major rivers – the Missouri and the Mississippi.


The Congressman is also a member of the House Committee on Armed Services. Missouri has a $15 billion military footprint and plays a critical role in ensuring our troops have the resources they need. Sam remains determined to protect Missouri’s various military installations and all the brave men and women who serve in uniform.


In 1992, he won his first race for State Representative. In 1994, he was elected State Senator for the 12th Senatorial District and was subsequently re-elected in 1998.


Rep. Graves’ leadership has been recognized by organizations like the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Hospital Association, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and Waterways Council, Inc., among many others.



Biographical Facts



Sam Graves



November 7, 1963 in Tarkio, Missouri



Three children, grandchildren






University of Missouri-Columbia (B.S. degree in Agronomy)


Public Office

Elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1992

Elected to the Missouri State Senate in 1994

Elected to the 107th Congress on November 7, 2000, and reelected each succeeding Congress


Q: You recently became the Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee. What will be your priorities for the 118th Congress?


A: It’s a great honor to chair what I believe is one of the most important committees in Congress. America cannot prosper without a safe and efficient transportation network that meets the economic needs of our diverse states and communities. The ability to move bipartisan infrastructure bills is what makes this committee so effective, and I look forward to working with Ranking Member Rick Larsen and all of our Members to do that.


T&I will have a full agenda over the next two years, including major bills to authorize the Federal Aviation Administration, the federal pipeline safety program, and the United States Coast Guard. Our Committee will work to help improve ongoing supply chain and energy issues. And oversight – particularly of the massive $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Although I didn’t vote for IIJA, it is the law of the land and we need to ensure that it is implemented as it was written and in a way that improves the efficiency of the whole transportation network.


One of my top legislative priorities for the Congress will be the next Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), legislation that has become law every two years since 2014. I think it’s important to maintain that two-year WRDA cycle and continue investing in our nation’s ports, inland waterways, lock and dams, flood protection infrastructure, and more. I have no doubt we’ll be working closely with WCI and others as the WRDA process kicks into gear toward the second half of the Congress.


Q: Your congressional district has both the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, could you please describe the importance of Missouri’s 6th congressional district, and its impact on a national and global scale?


A: The Mississippi and Missouri Rivers are among our nation’s greatest natural resources. They run right through the middle of hundreds of millions of acres of the most fertile farmland in the world. Farmers like me count on barge traffic along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers to get fertilizer to the farm and ship the crops we grow to market. In fact, 92 percent of our nation’s agricultural exports travel down the Mississippi River.


Every time you go to the grocery store there’s a good chance you’re buying something that traveled on a barge down on the Missouri or Mississippi River at some point before it got into your grocery cart.


That’s what’s so troubling about the low water levels we’ve seen on both rivers now. The navigation challenges brought on by this drought don’t just impact barge operators, these problems impact farmers, and families across the country and around the world.


It’s absolutely critical that we’re making sure the Corps of Engineers has the tools it needs to keep barge traffic moving to the best of its ability. On the Mississippi River, I think it’s critical that we keep moving toward getting the new 1,200-foot lock opened at Winfield and get moving on constructing new 1,200-foot locks on the river north of there. On the Missouri River, I think we’ve got to keep a close eye on the Corps to make sure it is prioritizing navigation and flood control over ecological science experiments and recreation. That’s something I’ve been insistent on for years, but I think it’s even more critical with the low water levels we’re seeing.


The Mississippi and Missouri Rivers are truly freight superhighways that are critical to feeding America and the world. We can’t afford to waste them—not now and not ever.


Q: What are some of your hobbies outside of politics?


A: I’m a sixth-generation family farmer, and I’ve been doing that my whole life.  And right in the middle of our farm is an airport named after my uncle, Gould Peterson, a B-24-pilot who was killed in WWII. As kids, my brother and I used to wash planes, pump gas, or do whatever we could to mooch a ride or a lesson, and those experiences led me to fall in love with flying and become a professional pilot.


Q: As an avid pilot, you have had the opportunity to fly some cool planes, including a World War II airplane over the capital. Could you please describe that experience?


A: About a year before the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, which occurred in 2015, I reached out to a friend of mine in the aviation industry to see if we could find a way to honor our World War II heroes. What we came up with was the “Arsenal of Democracy Flyover,” and we were grateful to have so many pilots, historic aircraft owners, and local and federal officials who worked together to make this event a possibility.


I was fortunate enough to lead the missing man formation in the TBM Avenger to honor our fallen World War II heroes. It was particularly special to have President George H.W. Bush as an honorary co-chair for the event. He flew TBMs during the war and was shot down in one. When he came to see ours, he signed the propeller blade, so we were proud of that. It was interesting to watch because when he got into the plane you could see the emotion wash over him, all those memories came back to him, and he just started telling stories about those days.



Lock 12 Dewatered, Members of Congress Attend


WCI Midwest Vice President Paul Rohde was invited by the Corps’ Rock Island District to tour the bottom of Upper Mississippi River Lock 12 in Bellevue, Iowa, on February 14. The lock, which opened in 1938 after four years of construction, was dewatered for major maintenance work, including installation of the lower bulkhead sill beam, weep hole cleaning/unclogging to allow for better drainage of water, miter gate anchorage upgrades, sill and seal repairs, minor ladder and guardrail repairs, and bubbler system/pipe and diffuser replacements, among others. 


Elected officials and staff representatives from officials’ district offices included House Appropriations Committee member Rep. Ashley Hinson (R, IA-02), Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R, IA-01), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Dubuque Mayor Brad Cavanaugh and Bellevue Mayor Roger Michels.



WCI Member Spotlight: AccuTRANS


WCI member AccuTRANS is a marine management services company providing barge tankermen, dockmen, and facility terminal operations. AccuTRANS also offers fleeting, fueling, tank gauging, facility maintenance, and much more. Most recently they have expanded their fleeting capabilities in the Corpus Christi harbor.


Over the last 25 years, AccuTRANS has operated along the Gulf Coast from Pensacola, Florida, to Brownsville, Texas and as far north as the Ohio River Valley, with headquarters in Kenner, Louisiana. AccuTRANS has an operations manager and field supervisors in each location they service, as well as a full complement of logistics employees, enabling them to consistently offer quick, reliable, and responsive service.


With CEO Gary Osorno, VP of Employee Engagement Toni Macksey, and the late, much-beloved Dave Foreman steering the ship since its inception, AccuTRANS has shaped the industry.


“Without quality, you can’t have a good business. Quality of how one treats its customers and employees is what matters,” said Mr. Foreman, who lives on through the immeasurable impact he will continue to have on tankermen for generations.


AccuTRANS’ commitment to the industry, “Transferring the Future Together,” is rooted in the belief to not only support their customers to succeed but also improve the lives of all their employees, making them better professionals. AccuTRANS has created a thriving culture, winning the Top Workplace Awards in Houston and New Orleans each year since 2015. More recently, AccuTRANS was recognized nationally, receiving a Top Workplace USA Award for 2022. These awards reflect AccuTRANS’ unwavering commitment to its foundational philosophy of excellence through continuous improvement.


AccuTRANS is also dedicated to protecting its customers’ interests and reputation. Their commitment to a thriving culture, accurate transfers, customer trust, and absolute integrity drives this. AccuTRANS understands the goods they handle are valuable, which is why its customs-approved, ISO-registered proprietary loss control, inspection, and testing services and processes continue to be regarded as the gold standard throughout the industry. AccuTRANS’ testing capabilities include crude oils, refined products, lube oils, petrochemical and specialty chemicals, acids, LPGs, and biodiesel and ethanol testing.


AccuTRANS further distinguishes itself with its ongoing training and professional development programs in its state-of-the-art facility, featuring an indoor training barge, led by the most knowledgeable people in the industry. They are committed to raising the standard of leadership, safety, and quality for the industry through one-on-one mentoring, year-round personal development, and a unique training program that teaches employees life skills.


The company has its own USCG certified Dangerous Liquids and Liquefied Gas course with three certified locations across the gulf coast and it offers customized: Train the Trainer, Tankermen Refresher, and Cargo Specific courses to customers that include employee feedback, test scores, SOP change recommendations, and other useful reporting.


Its employee support is the foundation of its culture and success. Through 24-hour logistical support, innovative Velocity Course, Take-5 / Target Zero safety initiative, family days, awards, and more, AccuTRANS continues to empower its people to live out the company’s five pillars of excellence: Grit, Heart, Thought, Hunger, and Health.


Mr. Osorno explains, “we believe that treating people well is more rewarding than simply meeting expectations. Our industry-leading tankermen live the AccuTRANS mission daily, so we maintain wellness and culture programs to ensure their continued health, happiness, and success at work and home.”


“AccuTRANS recognizes the vital role that Waterways Council performs to keep our country competitive in the world market. We look forward to the opportunity to contribute our support to WCI,” he continued.



Conservation Column: The Nation’s First Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program Environmental Project Begins Construction


By Melanie Peterson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District Public Affairs Specialist


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District Pool 2 wing dam modification project, in the Mississippi River, downstream of St. Paul, Minnesota, is the first ecosystem restoration contract in the nation awarded under the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP).


NESP is a long-term program of navigation improvements and ecosystem restoration for the Upper Mississippi River System. The primary goals of the program are to increase the capacity and improve the reliability of the inland navigation system while restoring, protecting and enhancing the environment.


“It’s exciting to work with the Rock Island and St. Louis districts to determine how this program will operate for the next 15 years,” said Kimberly Warshaw, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District project manager. “If we’re able to execute NESP, it will lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in ecosystem restoration projects in the three districts, adding environmental benefits to the Upper Midwest.”


The $324,000 Pool 2 contract was awarded to Togiak Management Services of Anchorage, Alaska on Nov. 29, 2022. Construction is expected to start in spring/summer with construction estimated for completion in September.


The Pool 2 wing dam modification project area is in the middle and lower half of Pool 2 of the Upper Mississippi River south of St. Paul and spans Dakota, Ramsey and Washington counties in Minnesota. A wing dam is a rock structure that diverts the water to the center of the river channel. The contractor will notch out rock from 17 wing dams to encourage depth and flow diversity of river habitat for fish.


According to Trevor Cyphers, Corps St. Paul District biologist, this is a transition area with a variety of habitat types, resulting in high fish diversity. These species could include channel catfish, smallmouth bass, walleye, bluegill, freshwater drum, or paddlefish.


“This project has been in development for two years, and NESP has provided the financial capability and opportunity to complete the project. Under NESP, we will continue to execute projects that support navigation infrastructure while also providing funding for ecosystem restoration projects,” Warshaw said.


Warshaw said there are two more NESP environmental projects that could start construction as soon as 2025: the Pool 3 Northern Sturgeon Lake project and the Pool 4 Wacouta Bay project. Both these projects will also include collaboration with engaged partners, Prairie Island Indian Community and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for Sturgeon Lake and the Wisconsin and Minnesota Departments of Natural Resources for Wacouta Bay.


Transportation, boating, fishing and a myriad of other business and recreational uses of the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway provide approximately $1 billion annually in net benefits to the nation's economy. Equally important is the high environmental value these rivers provide for the nation. Balancing these combined, and sometimes conflicting, factors make managing the river system challenging, with many individuals and organizations championing great and varying interests.


In 1986, the Upper Mississippi River System was declared by Congress as a “nationally significant ecosystem and a nationally significant commercial navigation system.”


This led to a navigation study in 1990 that looked at the constraints of the navigation system and the effect of adding a lock chamber and improving efficiencies in the navigation system, according to Terry Birkenstock, chief of regional planning and environment division north.

In 1993, The Upper Mississippi River - Illinois Waterway System Navigation Feasibility Study was initiated to further study waterway improvements.


“During these studies there was controversy from the environmental community,” Birkenstock said. “They wanted equal expenditure on ecosystem and navigation. So they agreed to collaborate and attend the public meetings.”


Coupled with recommendations from the National Research Council and based on input from a federal agency task force, the study was restructured in 2001 with the goal of an environmentally sustainable navigation system that ensured efficient transportation for the future. The report was finalized and signed in 2004.


In 2007, Congress authorized NESP in the Water Resources Development Act, Title VIII. The first dual-purpose program of its kind to enhance and improve the Upper Mississippi River System.


“After that, it was on the back burner,” Birkenstock said. “Industry and other organizations have been lobbying Congress for years to fund construction and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, or BIL, finally made it happen. The appropriations from the law, signed in January 2022, will propel projects to modernize navigation on the Upper Mississippi River System and restore the environment.

For more information, see:



Groundbreaking Scheduled for Lock 25


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District has announced a Groundbreaking Ceremony for Lock 25 on May 18 beginning at 1 p.m. CT.


Lock 25, part of the NESP program, received a new construction start and funding of $732 million in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) for a new 1200-foot lock next to the existing 600-foot lock.



Pittsburgh Proud


WCI’s President/CEO Tracy Zea and Senior Vice President Deb Calhoun were in Pittsburgh on March 2 to attend a WCI member Port of Pittsburgh Commission-sponsored breakfast and the Pittsburgh Traffic Club Dinner. Left to right: Zea; Calhoun; Peter Stephaich (Campbell Transportation Co.); Mary Ann Bucci (Port of Pittsburgh Commission); Jeanine Hoey (retired from the Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District); and Scott Harshman (Port of Pittsburgh Commission)



WCI issued its 2022 Annual Report in February highlighting the successes of the year and the challenges of low water.



2023 Industry Calendar


March 6-8:  National Waterways Conference, 2023 Legislative Summit, Hotel Washington (Washington, DC). 


March 8-9:  American Waterways Operators Pacific Region Annual Meeting, Pan Pacific Hotel (Seattle, WA). Contact:


April 26-28:  Greater New Orleans Barge Fleeting Association (GNOBFA) 2023 Seminar, Hotel Intercontinental (New Orleans, LA). Contact:


May 10-11:  American Waterways Operators Spring Convention and Barge-In, Grand Hyatt Hotel (Washington, DC). Contact:


May 31-June 2:  The Waterways Journal 2023 Inland Marine Expo (Nashville, TN). 


August 16-17:  American Waterways Operators Summer Safety Committee Meeting, Four Seasons Hotel (St. Louis, MO). Contact:


October 10-11:  American Waterways Operators Board of Directors Meeting and Fall Convention, Bellevue Hotel (Philadelphia, PA). Contact:  


November 13-15:  WCI 20th Annual Waterways Symposium and Board of Directors Meeting, Four Seasons Hotel (New Orleans, LA). Details forthcoming.


December 7:  Seamen’s Church Institute River Bell Awards Luncheon, Paducah-McCracken County Convention & Expo Center (Paducah, KY). Details forthcoming.