ICW Awarded $48.5 Million for Dredging


It’s that time of year where thousands of East Coast boaters frequent the 1,100-mile Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), also known as Marine Highway 95. This season brings exciting news for cruisers as a recently passed bill provides funds for maintenance dredging projects to enhance boater accessibility by clearing debris, preserving ecosystems and returning the waterway to its authorized depth of 12 feet. 

ICW, Fort Lauderdale, FL | Credit: It Must Be F:8

The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association (AIWA) has been working for more than a decade to restore sufficient dredging funding for the ICW. After the Congressional earmark ban started in fiscal year 2012, it was crucial to modify advocacy and education strategies to build the case for ICW funding as an interconnected marine highway system that stretched beyond individual congressional districts. This approach led to receiving almost $150 million in funding for states along the waterway since 2022. 

Thanks to AIWA’s advocacy, Congress recently passed the 2024 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill with additional funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law granting $48.5 million to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to address critical waterway maintenance. The USACE is responsible for the waterway, and AIWA works closely with the federal agency to raise concerns for areas that require dredging. Dredging will take place in five states: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Extending from Norfolk, VA, through Key West, FL, the ICW was authorized in the 1939 Rivers and Harbors Act and serves as a major waterway for the U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessels, cruise and tour boats, commercial fishing, recreational boating and much more. AIWA’s overall mission aims to encourage and support ICW commerce and recreation development through education, maintenance, safe navigation and dredging. 

AIWA members range from state and local agencies and marine industry associations to various waterway services, marinas, clubs, dealers and more. Key partners include BoatUS, National Marine Manufacturers Association and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. As a founding member, BoatUS is heavily involved in advocacy and aims to bring boaters’ voices to the organization. 

“When we think about Marine 95, we’ve got the snowbirds, travelers and local boaters, but all the local marinas are also dependent on this whole system working, so that’s why this is one of our major advocacy pieces we’re involved with and help push,” says David Kennedy, BoatUS manager of government affairs and AIWA board member. “But I always emphasize that BoatUS doesn’t do these things alone, and joining with other groups and getting those interactions really magnifies and leverages what we’re able to do for boaters.” 

Cumberland Dividings | Courtesy of Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association


Brad Pickel, executive director of AIWA, says the funding will allow all five states to complete dredging projects or work on “dredge material management areas,” which focus on strategically placing materials that are removed. 

“In some areas where you dredge, you want to put it right on a beach, wetland or marsh for coastal resiliency and habitat restoration, but sometimes we have to store materials in upland locations, so we maintain those dredge material management areas,” says Pickel. 

The funding supports a unique new project in South Carolina to take an upland management area and re-liquify the sand from past dredging to move it across the waterway onto a beach. This not only allows for more dredging capacity, but also repurposes a secondary use for coastal storm damage reduction and hurricane resiliency. 

On Cumberland Island, GA, north of Crooked River near Cabin Bluff and Cumberland Dividings, the focus is on an in-water placement project to build a bird island and increase shorebird nesting habitats. The Florida region will work on what AIWA refers to as “direct beneficial use projects,” where they often place dredging materials directly on the beach and focus on environmental preservation. 

Stay tuned for updates and check out more info by visiting the AIWA and BoatUS websites.

Want to Stay In the Loop?

Stay up to date with the latest articles, news and all things boating with a FREE subscription to Marinalife Magazine!

Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Marinalife articles