Thursday, January 30, 2014



Operational changes to locks will affect access to waterways throughout the U.S.
Claiborne Lock and Dam on the Alabama River, Photo U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Editorial Note 10/18/2015 We urge our readers to continue to follow this issue. At t his writing fishing access to inland waterway continues to be threatened

Around the nation it is becoming more difficult for fishermen and other recreational boaters to gain access to the navigable waters. Of late the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers once the champion of the concept of the navigable waters as a "common highway", open to all is rarely defending non commercial rights and is starting to impose  some additional restrictions of its own. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 declared the waters of the Ohio River, it's tributaries and dis-tributaries a "Common Highway", "open to all" and "forever free" of tolls. The "Louisiana Organic Act" passed around 1812 extended this concept of the "common highway"  to the waters of the Mississippi and Missouri in the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. Roughly 33 individual states mostly in the Mississippi,Ohio, Missouri river valleys and ringing the Great Lakes have passed additional laws that have opened up non river navigable waters to citizen access, including recreational boating and fishing. Unfortunately in recent years in a number of places big corporate interests have encroached on the public's access rights to the navigable waters.  The first appeal of the public traditionally and legally should be to the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers for enforcement of the these ancient acts and the follow on, Corps of Engineers regulations in Title 33 Code of Federal Regulations. Unfortunately, in far too many recent cases of corporate encroachment the Corps has taken only cursory action such as sending out a written notice to the corporate offender, and when the offender engages lawyers, the Corps has actually on some occasions that we are aware of taken the position that they would "wait to see what the state does". Neither the Corps nor the individual states where these encroachments occur are very interested in expensive litigation to insure the public's rights against well heeled and litigious corporations. To read more about this battle we suggest:

 AMERICAN ADMIRALTY BUREAU'S COMMENTATOR  VOLUME 4: "A COMMON HIGHWAY" by Master Pilots Raymond F. Bollinger and the late Gerald E. Disler, ISBN 1-879778-79-3

A COMMON HIGHWAY Using this link you can read a review at Amazon .com but we strongly suggest that you not pay over $35 at Amazon for this book which they advertise used for as much as $ 357.98. We have explained in print before that the publications of the American Admiralty Bureau while often in lapsed copyright and reprinted by several University Presses at some very high prices are still available at their original publisher Marine Education Text Books as spiral bound soft cover books at very reasonable prices often around $35. Unfortunately the print on demand collection of MET is not in their online bookstore. Here is their contact information: 
Marine Education Textbooks124 North Van Avenue 

Houma Louisiana 70363-5895 
Phone: (985) 879-3866 
Fax: (985) 879-3911 

  As motor propulsion marine technology continued to improve so did the Corps development of navigation infrastructure including locks and dams allowing all season inland navigation at one point from the eastern back slope of the Rockies to the Western back slope of the Appalachians, and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf. There was always a priority for using the locks and many locks had waiting lines for vessels. Back when there were actually mail boats they had the top priority. Today the priority is government vessels, followed by passenger vessels, and then commercial vessels particularly towing vessels and their barges, with the last priority going to recreational vessels. However at some locks there have been long periods where due to loss of commerce due to general economic conditions the most frequent traffic is actually recreational boats. Neither commercial nor recreational lock users pay anything for lock passage thanks to the North West Ordinance and Louisiana Organic act. Both types of users pay fuel tax with the those of the commercial users going to a waterways maintenance trust fund. The same would be true for recreational boats purchasing diesel fuel at water side sources. However, a lot of recreational boating gasoline tax goes into highway trust funds. Generally locks that slip into recreational dominant use are in trouble in the budgeting wars in tight times. About a year ago we examined some locks below Montgomery , Alabama. Montgomery was once an important inland cotton port. Now the locks that connect the city to the other navigable waters and the sea are mostly used by recreational boats. The waterfront of Montgomery is now largely an excursion boat dock, and water front park. But the marinas, recreational fishing related businesses behind those locks are real and contribute to the regional economy as does the excursion boat business. More over the larger river valley served generates bulk commodity cargoes in abundance including soybeans and timber, and construction aggregates. Rising transportation costs by road and rail are already causing some producers to reconsider barge transport. But due to several decades of neglect there is little regular "line haul service" or infrastructure behind the up river from the dam. These things take time to reemerge. Also behind the dam is a large Air Force Base at Montgomery with river front property. This base could receive aviation fuel via tank barge the safest and most inexpensive way to transport that commodity whenever tank barge service is again available on a regular basis or the Feds decide to sign up for a contract hauling service. But meanwhile recreational boating contributes to the regional economy and helps keep the locks operating. But increasingly the Corps fails to consider the importance of recreational boating traffic or the periodic ups and downs of inland maritime transport and locks that service mostly recreational traffic are in danger of no longer being funded.
This not only impacts recreational boating and fisherman access to water but permanently eliminates the economic advantages of low cost water transport to vast areas of the 33 American states served by the inland waterways. Now according to the article we link you to here: Army Corps of Engineer Proposal Would Lock Anglers Out at Keep America Fishing new Army regulations could virtually eliminate lock usage on some waterways by fishermen and other recreational boaters. We don't disagree with lock use prioritization of traffic but we think any ban on lock use by any category of vessel traffic is contrary to both the provisions of the Northwest Ordinance and Louisiana Organic Act. We think anything that leads to any reduction in navigable capacity of our interstate navigation systems is extremely poor public policy. 

 Since colonial times we have always had more water borne commerce moving between and among our states than we have foreign water borne commerce and we are a very sea dependent nation with 66 of 77 strategic materials having to be brought to us by sea not to mention all of the foreign manufactured and processed cargoes that enter U.S. customs ports of entry daily. We have long recommended this book for those who wish to know or are attempting to defend domestic navigation rights for any sort of vessel traffic including sport fishermen. THE WAY OF THE SHIP contains some very important historical information for defenders of domestic water transport rights and infrastructure.
Product Details

 To read the coverage of the planned Army Corps of Engineers actions viewed as limiting angler access to navigable waters click here: Keep America Fishing. Again we solicit the comments of our fishermen readers on the Keep America Fishing web site a candidate for permanent linkage on our in our Fishing Special Interest Section.

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