Inland ports group, Corps to cooperate on tonnage issue

Officials with an port association and a division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have formally agreed to cooperate to make sure ports receive adequate funds based on their economic impact to the communities they serve.

Cindy Cutrera, president of Inland Rivers, Ports & Terminals Inc., an association that advocates on behalf of ports, and Joe Manous Jr., director for the Institute of Water Resources of the Corps of Engineers, signed a memorandum to mark the cooperative effort Wednesday in New Orleans, a news release said.

Cutrera is also economic development manager for the Port of Morgan City and has been working for many years to try to ensure the port receives proper credit for the business it brings to the community.

“While we are all different, some of the problems experienced by our Members, such as inadequate funding and tonnage reporting, we have common issues throughout the Inland River system,” Cutrera said in the release.

Ports are ranked by the amount of tonnage that passes through their waterways, and they receive federal funds to dredge those waterways based on that ranking system.

The number of people employed in the fabrication industry and amount of money fabrication projects bring to port communities are far more significant for many ports, including Morgan City, than just the tonnage, Cutrera said.

“We feel like there needs to be some other important factors that come out of this,” she said.

Another issue is to trying to get all companies to report all of their tonnage to ports so those ports get proper credit and funds based on the current system, she said.

“We know still that we do not have everybody who should be reporting everything. We’re going to have to do some more tonnage campaigns in our area for sure,” Cutrera said.

The Institute of Water Resources will be able to help advocate in conjunction with the association to bring forward legislation to possibly fix some of the issues with giving ports proper credit for their economic impact, she said.

The association’s vision is to navigate a path forward through strategic partnerships, such as with the Institute of Water Resources for an accurate reporting system with valuable data that shows the truest value of the inland waterway system for freight transportation in order to support adequate, long-term funding, the release said.

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