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Brownwater News, April 2015

Apr 15, 2015 12:40 PM

Jaenichen: U.S. waterways ‘crucial’ but underused

Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen said March 17 that while it may take “nonstop work” to maintain America’s position in today’s global economy, “we have one large-scale, crucial asset that gives us an edge on the rest of the world.”

“The United States has more navigable rivers and waterways than most of the world’s other nations,” Jaenichen explained at the 2015 Legislative Summit of the National Waterways Conference in Washington, D.C. “Germany and France each have about 4,500 miles. The Arab world has less than 200 miles. The U.S. has 12,000 miles of navigable waterways. If you include coastal routes, it totals nearly 28,000 miles.

“We have the world’s greatest inland waterway network. And yet, we are barely using it. Last year, our nation moved just 5 percent of domestic freight shipments by water.”

Jaenichen said that’s like the New England Patriots playing Tom Brady for just three minutes each game. “That’s essentially what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re hardly using our greatest competitive advantage.”

Jaenichen said the U.S. cannot afford to settle for the “transportation status quo. By 2045, our population will grow by over 70 million, and freight volume will increase 45 percent. If we stay on our current course, it will inevitably choke freight flows, limit our economic growth, and impact our international standing.”

He said the Maritime Administration (MarAd) is working on a number of initiatives to give shippers more transportation options. Among them are the development of a National Maritime Strategy, a StrongPorts program, a container-on-barge service between St. Louis and New Orleans, continued development of the nation’s Marine Highway System and Beyond Traffic, a new initiative that begins with a Department of Transportation study examining population and demographic changes and logistics and trade projections.

Jaenichen said the study will highlight the demands that the nation places on transportation “and some of the most efficient ways we can meet those demands. You can find it on the department’s website (www.dot.gov). And I suggest you take a look and provide your input.”

Foxx proposes $478 billion transportation bill

On March 30, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sent Congress a new six-year, $478 billion transportation reauthorization bill that he said would provide “funding growth and certainty so that state and local governments can get back in the business of building things again.”

Foxx said the new Grow America Act, his “solution to the problem of crumbling infrastructure and dwindling resources,” provides Congress “with the option of increasing investment in surface transportation by 45 percent, and supporting millions of jobs repairing and modernizing roads, bridges, railroads and transit systems in urban, suburban and rural communities.”

Foxx said the proposed legislation would increase investment in all forms of transportation, and establish an $18 billion freight program “so American businesses can compete effectively in a global economy and grow.”

Furthermore, he said the measure would “put in place a transparent and clear permitting process to speed up project delivery.”

The administration’s proposal would be funded by the current gas tax in addition to a 14 percent tax on an estimated $2 billion that U.S. corporations are said to have held offshore to avoid higher corporate tax rates.

IWUB favors completion of ongoing projects

The Inland Waterways Users Board (IWUB) recommended in its recently released 27th annual report that the administration and Congress use the project priority list in the Capital Development Plan in allocating construction funding for modernization projects during fiscal years 2015 and 2016.

The existing plan, with its emphasis on concentrating first on finishing the projects already started, should continue to govern project-specific funding allocations until well after the secretary of the Army has completed work on his priority list that is being developed in response to the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), the board said.

“The board believes at this time that the revised priority list should not be used for making project-specific funding allocations before fiscal year 2017,” the board said.

That recommendation was one of nine offered in the annual report. Others were that Congress appropriate $180 million for Olmsted Locks and Dam on the Ohio River and $73 million for Lower Mon (Locks and Dams 2, 3 and 4, Monongahela River) in FY 2015; $180 million for Olmsted and $52 million for Lower Mon in FY 2016; and a recommendation to continue or increase in FY 2016 the “robust levels of funding provided in FY 2014 and 2015” for operation and maintenance.

Furthermore, the board recommended that the administration appoint the 11th member of the board “without further delay,” and support appointment and reappointment of board members on a staggered basis to prevent the expiration of all board members’ terms occurring at the same time. “The terms of no more than six board members should expire in any single fiscal year,” the board said. All appointments are due to expire May 28.

Lawmakers asked to allocate 69 percent of HMT for FY 2016

Rep. Charles W. Boustany, R-La., Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif., and members of the Congressional Ports Caucus led a letter with 86 House signatories urging the House Appropriations Committee to allocate 69 percent of the fiscal year 2015 Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) revenue, or $1.25 billion, for FY 2016.

The request was made after noting that President Obama’s budget projected revenue for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to be more than $1.81 billion for FY 2015.

“Congress voiced its strong support for ports and harbors during the debate and eventual passage of landmark water resources development legislation (WRRDA) last year,” Boustany said. “Now, it’s time to follow through. I’ll continue to hold our members’ feet to the fire to ensure we keep our promises to the businesses that depend on these waterways.”

Unmanned aircraft eyed for maritime first responders

The U.S. Coast Guard is taking a look at unmanned aircraft systems for possible use by maritime first responders.

The Coast Guard said it intends to enter into a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with several companies to evaluate small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS) and their airborne sensors to determine their potential for use in a maritime environment by a first responder and Department of Homeland Security operational components.

The Coast Guard will conduct flight testing and evaluation of SUAS under a wide variety of simulated but realistic and relevant maritime operational scenarios, such as law enforcement, search and rescue, and maritime environmental response.

The Coast Guard is currently considering partnering with Aerovel Corp., Aurora Flight Sciences, Lockheed Martin Corp., and Mission Technology Systems because each has demonstrated the ability to operate SUAS in a maritime environment.

For more information, contact Andrew Niccolai at (860) 271-2670.

Gosar proposal attacks ‘regulatory overreach’

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., has introduced the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 594), which prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers from promulgating the final Waters of the United States rule under the Clean Water Act.

The measure would require the EPA and the Corps to consult with state and local governments to develop a new proposed rule that would then be submitted to Congress for approval.

At a Feb. 4 hearing, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said if the rule goes into effect, “it will open the door for the federal government to regulate just about any place where water collects, and in some cases regulate land use activities.”

NWC: Report on future water resources ‘troubling’

The National Waterways Conference (NWC) has urged Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army (Civil Works), to reconsider the “Report to Congress on Future Water Resources Development.”

In a letter to Darcy, Amy Larson, president of NWC, said the report submitted to Congress on Feb. 4 is “troubling” in that of the 114 proposals submitted by non-federal sponsors around the country, only 19 were deemed to have satisfied criteria in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act.

“Even more peculiar, all 19 were proposed feasibility studies, meaning that none of the proposals for project authorizations or project modifications were determined to have satisfied the requirements of Section 7001,” Larson said. “Even at a cursory glance, such a finding would appear unusual.”

Larson said “it would be very troubling” if proposals were selected for inclusion in the final report only if they were consistent with administration policy.

Coast Guard adjusts pilotage rates for Great Lakes

The Coast Guard said at the end of February that it was adjusting rates for pilotage services on the Great Lakes. The adjustments establish new base rates made in accordance with a full ratemaking procedure.

The proposed rates are planned to maintain parity with the Canadian Great Lakes Pilotage Authority.

The Coast Guard said it also was implementing temporary surcharges to accelerate recoupment of necessary and reasonable training and investment costs for the pilot associations.

The final rule will become effective Aug. 1.

Details of the 2015 annual review and rate adjustment are in the Feb. 26 issue of the Federal Register.

For more information, contact Todd Haviland at (202) 372-2037.

FMC commissioner confirmed for second term

The Senate has confirmed President Obama’s nomination of William P. Doyle to his second term on the Federal Maritime Commission. Doyle was originally confirmed by the Senate in January 2013 to fill the unexpired term of former FMC Commissioner Joseph Brennan. On Jan. 30, 2014, the president reappointed Doyle for a term expiring June 30, 2018.

Prior to his appointment to the FMC, Doyle spent his career in the transportation sector. He is a Coast Guard licensed engineer and served as an officer in the U.S. Merchant Marine, sailing commercially on vessels in the domestic and international trades for 10 years.

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