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Steenhoek: Waterways projects should take note of Panama Canal

To listen to Brandon’s World of Agriculture report on the Panama Canal’s funding, click here.

Late Wednesday night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the 2013 Water Resources Reform and Development Act, following the lead of the Senate in May.

While it’s positive progress toward ensuring the American waterways infrastructure is supported financially, Soy Transportation Coalition Executive Director Mike Steenhoek says the continuing resolutions by which maintenance projects are funded inherently leads to cost overruns and delays, by way of uncertain appropriations.

Steenhoek says the ongoing expansion of the 99-year-old Panama Canal is an example of how locks and dams projects should be funded: the Panamanian government allocates a lump sum, or even reliable increments of funding, for the whole project. He says it has kept the expansion more or less on target, both in terms of budget ($5.25 billion) and time (set for completion in 2015).

Steenhoek recently visited Panama with members of the United Soybean Board; he says the Panamanians view continued business with the United States as a good return on investment.

They are very much interested in ensuring that we have a proper inland waterway system, and a proper port infrastructure, because, here’s this country that’s investing billions of dollars in expanding that canal, and it won’t do a whole of good if we are not, if the U.S. is not in a position to fully take advantage of it.
And so they’re very interested in all of these infrastructure developments and debates that we’re having in this country, otherwise it will be a missed opportunity for them as well.