This article was written for the Nicollet Island Coalition
By Brad Walker, Rivers Director May 22, 2017
The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card was recently released by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and a cursory review leaves me to wonder, who is editing this thing? Is anyone looking critically at making sure investment recommendations are worthwhile and in the public interest? Much of our nation’s infrastructure was built during the 1930s New Deal as part of a grand vision to build dams, roads and bridges. While those federal investments are credited at least with bringing the nation out of the Depression, some of those investments have caused unacceptable environmental damages, like the dams that block migrating salmon. Infrastructure today needs a new vision that focuses on building a more sustainable future, like high speed rail, functional mass transit and renewable energy. Unfortunately, the ASCE is stuck in the 20th century as it evaluates the nation’s infrastructure.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) states on their website that:
“ASCE and its members are dedicated to ensuring a sustainable future in which human society has the capacity and opportunity to maintain and improve its quality of life indefinitely, without degrading the quantity, quality or the availability of natural, economic and social resources.”
Obviously, the statement is a legitimate and encompasses many of the basic components of sustainability. However, as many growth-oriented organizations ignore, there is no consideration of what specific physical and biologic needs and how much of them are essential to “maintain and improve its quality of life indefinitely.”
The ASCE uses its Report Card to quantify how much it would cost to repair existing system or expand them, but there is no questioning of whether all of the existing infrastructure systems are actually providing public value or even have the potential of being sustainable. The overarching philosophy is to maintain these systems without looking beyond them to fundamental changes in how the systems work or don’t work in providing their intended benefit, which is not corporate profits.
This is especially true of the Inland Waterways System (IWS), which is the most subsidized commodity transport system in the U.S. and a system that has highly damaged one of the most diverse, productive and rare habitats that exists – rivers and floodplains.
There is a fundamental problem with this ASCE Report Card regarding the IWS, which is strongly based on the U.S.… Read the rest