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The Navigation Economic Technologies (NETS) program was established to provide the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with independently verified, objective economic models, tools, and techniques for evaluating current and future navigation needs.

The NETS research program was managed by the U.S. Army Engineer Institute of Water Resources under the direction of Keith Hofseth, NETS@usace.army.mil. Technical oversight of NETS was provided by the Corps Chief Economist, Dr. David Moser and by Dr. Wesley Wilson, University of Oregon. NETS research was coordinated with the Corps Centers of Expertise for Inland Navigation and Deep Draft Navigation.

The goal of the Navigation Economic Technologies (NETS) program was to develop a standardized and defensible knowledge base and a suite of economic tools for addressing these issues:

Improving System Utilization

NETS research activities examined a variety of proposed solutions to ease congestion on our nation’s waterways by enabling vessels to move more quickly and efficiently through locks and dams including:

  • Congestion fees;
  • Scheduling;
  • Tradable locking permits;
  • Lockage efficiency measures; and
  • Locking policies.

Increasing System Capacity

NETS research efforts also targeted the development of better tools and techniques for determining the economic impact of new capital investments. Key focus areas included:

  • Analyzing shipper behavior and responses, particularly decisions to switch to non-water modes of transportation.
  • Assessing global market conditions, including the impact of international competition and commodity flows.

Approach

The NETS research program had two primary focal points: expansion of the body of knowledge regarding the economics underlying use of waterways and harbors, and creation of a toolbox of practical planning models, methods and techniques that could be applied to a variety of situations.

The knowledge and tools developed by the NETS research program were based on:

  • Reviews of economic theory;
  • Current best practices both within and outside of the Corps;
  • Data needs and availability; and
  • Peer recommendations.

Every NETS research activity had to meet four basic standards:

  • Grounded in reality. Research activities must be based on accurate and complete data and all procedures, assumptions and conclusions must be well-documented.
  • Intuitive. The procedures, assumptions and sensitive variables underlying research activities must be reasonably transparent to users both inside and outside of the Corps.
  • Verifiable. All NETS research activities must be peer-reviewed by a panel of independent experts.
  • Transportable. NETS tools and techniques must be designed so that they can be easily applied across geographic boundaries to projects of varying sizes and scopes.

NETS Reports and Papers Series

A series of reports and papers were published as a result of the NETS program. Software models were also developed.