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Brownwater News, July 2017

Jul 20, 2017 09:09 AM

House panel OKs funding increase for Army Corps' Civil Works

The House Appropriations Committee unanimously passed a bill on July 12 that significantly increases funding in fiscal year 2018 for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Civil Works program. The FY 2018 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill provides $6.2 billion for the program, an increase of $1.2 billion from President Trump’s FY 2018 request and an increase of $120 million over the amount enacted for this fiscal year.

The committee also approved $1.7 billion for public works construction, up $677 million from the president's FY 2018 request but $179 million less than the sum approved for FY 2017. The House bill also calls for full use of estimated annual revenue from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund of at least $332.5 million.

The Corps’ operations and maintenance account received a record $3.5 billion, which is $419 million more than the administration’s request for FY 2018 and $370 million more than the O&M sum enacted for FY 2017. The committee provided $809 million for inland O&M, $25 million more than the president's FY 2018 budget request.

Included in the bill was funding of $1.3 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which is $40 million more than the FY 2017 enacted level. The House bill also directs the Corps to analyze recent information and to report back to the committee within 45 days regarding Asian carp proximity to the Great Lakes to determine if emergency action is needed.

Michael J. Toohey, president of the Waterways Council Inc., expressed his gratitude to committee and subcommittee leaders for passing “such a strong inland waterways funding bill that utilizes full use of the trust fund revenue.” He called it “a true win for the nation's inland waterways transportation system.”

Barge industry faces proposed increase in user fees

The barge industry, which three years ago supported the effort that increased its fuel tax by 9 cents per gallon up to 29 cents, is now facing a White House proposal for increased user fees on the inland waterways. The increase will help raise $500 million still needed to complete construction of the new and larger Chickamauga Lock in Chattanooga, Tenn.

“The central financing challenge now facing the inland waterways program is that the current diesel fuel tax will not generate enough revenue to support the user-financed 50 percent share of capital investments that will likely be needed over the next 10 to 15 years,” the Office of Management and Budget said in its fiscal year 2018 spending proposal.

The proposed increase would generate an amount roughly equivalent to what is collected from the current fuel tax. The plan was sharply criticized by the Waterways Council Inc., which said in a news release that similar proposals have been rejected by Congress and are not supported by the industry.

TWIC reader rules delayed for some facilities

The Coast Guard has delayed implementation of Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) reader requirements for certain facilities pending clarification. Facilities required by the final rule to install TWIC readers include those that handle certain dangerous cargoes (CDC) in bulk or receive vessels carrying CDC in bulk.

The Coast Guard has identified a need to clarify the final rule’s definition of “bulk or in bulk” and the interpretation of the term “handle.” Therefore, until the definitions are clarified, the only facilities expected to comply with the requirements of the final rule on its effective date of Aug. 23, 2018, are those that receive vessels certificated to carry more than 1,000 passengers and facilities subject to CDC rules.

The Coast Guard said the change in implementation effectively delays implementation of TWIC reader requirements for barge fleeting facilities that receive vessels carrying CDC in bulk until the service is able to clarify the final rule’s applicability.

For more information, contact Caitlyn Stewart (703) 841-9300, ext. 262.

MarAd awaits organizational review

The U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd) has hired the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to conduct an in-depth organizational review. The review will include a look at MarAd’s core functions, its role within the Department of Transportation and its “benefit to the nation.”

MarAd said NAPA will evaluate how effectively and efficiently the agency meets its responsibilities, how MarAd compares with other maritime transport organizations, and how MarAd’s missions and operations can best support national defense and maritime transportation responsibilities. The NAPA team will take six months to develop a report and also will provide recommendations.

MarAd oversees several programs critical to the United States maritime industry, including the Maritime Security Program and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. It also administers the “mothball fleet” of decommissioned government vessels.

While the announcement did not mention specific programs, MarAd has been criticized for its oversight and management of the academy. Both the agency and the school have faced congressional scrutiny for their handling of sexual assault and harassment on campus.

Survey: AWO provides 'ready access' to staff, good value

The American Waterways Operators (AWO) reported on June 20 that a membership survey it conducted this spring found that 94 percent of respondents agreed that they have “ready access to the AWO staff.”

A high percentage of respondents said that they get “good value” from their membership, that AWO “values my membership,” and that they had “high levels of satisfaction” with their AWO meeting experience. Respondents also said access to AWO meetings should be increased, and they offered several constructive suggestions to improve meetings. Forty-two percent recommended no change.

AWO leaders said that to make meetings more productive and more efficient, they will experiment with improvements based on the survey results, including options for providing video access to meeting content.

Coast Guard amends Lower Mississippi anchorage rules

The U.S. Coast Guard has amended anchorage regulations for the Lower Mississippi River below Baton Rouge, La. The amendment modifies Cedar Grove Anchorage and White Castle Anchorage and will establish two new anchorages, Point Michel Anchorage and Plaquemines Point Anchorage, above Head of Passes.

The Coast Guard said the amendment increases the available anchorage areas necessary to accommodate vessel traffic, improves navigation safety and aids the economy through increased anchorage capacity. The service had found that the anchorages were at maximum capacity during the grain season, creating a hazardous situation for vessels experiencing an operational casualty.

Comments on the amendment, which became effective June 14, must be received by the Coast Guard by Oct. 12. For more information, contact Lt. Cmdr. Howard Vacco at (504) 365-2281.

Coast Guard drafts new guidance on maritime cyber risks

The Coast Guard has invited public comment on a draft of a new circular detailing guidelines for addressing cyber risks at facilities regulated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA).

The draft of Navigation and Inspection Circular 05-17 proposes to clarify the existing requirements under MTSA to incorporate analysis of computer and cyber risks and guidance for addressing those risks. The circular would provide guidance on incorporating cybersecurity into an effective facility security assessment, as well as additional recommendations for policies and procedures that may reduce cyber risks to operators of maritime facilities.

The Coast Guard said operators may use the circular as a benchmark to develop and implement measures and activities for effective self-governance of cyber risks.

For additional information, contact Jason Warren at (202) 372-1106.

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