House panel hears proposals for new WRDA

House panel hears proposals for new WRDA

The House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee met April 15 to learn of additional proposals that might be included in a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) expected to be introduced this year.

Currently, the subcommittee is evaluating more than 2,200 project requests from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress for consideration in this year’s bill. One witness delivering requests to the subcommittee was Stephen D. Little, president and CEO of Crounse Corp., and chairman of the Inland Waterways Users Board. Little offered for consideration the recommendations of the Inland Marine Transportation System (IMTS) Capital Investment Strategy Team (CIS) and urged the subcommittee to include in its next WRDA the provisions necessary to implement the recommendations. The Users Board and several other major waterway industry groups have already endorsed the recommendations.

Little told the subcommittee that the CIS Team “has produced a comprehensive, consensus-based, joint industry/Corps of Engineers set of proposals to address the capital investments that should be made over the next 20 years in order to preserve and enhance the performance of our nation’s inland waterway transportation system.â€

The CIS Team proposed a $7.6 billion, 20-year inland waterway capital investment program that would entail an average annual investment of $380 million, including $110 million that would come from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and $270 million from general revenue. Under the plan, the Trust Fund would be fed by a 30-to-45-percent increase in the current 20-cents-a-gallon diesel fuel tax.

“We have an aging system that needs recapitalization,†Little said. “We have a project funding and delivery system that is too inefficient, resulting in much wasted time and money. While we now have invested the unnecessary surplus in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, that has resulted in too few finished projects. And all of this comes in the face of an unprecedented economic crisis that is severely stressing our waterway industry and the nation.â€

Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, stressed “transparency and accountability†in the development of a new WRDA. In remarks during the hearing, Oberstar reminded the interest groups offering project requests that in 2007 his committee adopted a policy requiring that each project authorization be requested by a member of Congress and accompanied by a “no financial interest†certification signed by the requesting member.

“That transparency and accountability principle continues to be the committee’s policy as we proceed in the formulation of a water resources bill for 2010,†Oberstar said. “The committee report will list all sponsors of project authorizations and the accompanying financial certifications will be made publicly available prior to consideration of the bill in the House.â€

Papp to take over as Coast Guard commandant 

Vice Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. will assume the duties of 24th commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard on May 25.

The Senate confirmed Papp as the Coast Guard’s new commandant and promoted him to admiral April 22. As new commandant, Papp will take the helm of the Coast Guard from Adm. Thad Allen, who plans to retire July 1 after 39 years in the Coast Guard.

Papp is currently serving as commander of the Coast Guard Atlantic Area and Defense Force East. Previously, he served as chief of staff of the Coast Guard in Washington, D.C.

Papp’s Coast Guard career includes extensive tours on both land and sea, including service on six Coast Guard cutters and posts such as chief of the Capabilities Branch in the Defense Operations Division; chief of the Fleet Development Team and chief of the Coast Guard’s Office of Congressional Affairs.

MarAd taking applications for marine highway projects

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) has invited applications for marine highway projects as discussed in the final rule that established America’s Marine Highway Program. The final rule specifies that under the program, the Secretary of Transportation will designate marine highway corridors and identify and support short sea transportation projects.

MarAd said that applications for projects must comply with the requirements of the program’s final rule, and be submitted in accordance with the instructions contained in that rule. The application period, which opened April 15, will remain open through June 11.

Requirements of the program are spelled out in the final rule that was published in the Federal Register on April 9.

For more information, contact Michael Gordon at (202) 366-5468.

Army Engineers set meetings on Missouri River study

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has scheduled three meetings this month to collect recommendations, suggestions and comments to define the scope of studies that will be conducted for the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study (MRAPS).

The three meetings will be held May 25 at the Scherr Howe Arena, Mobridge, S.D.; May 26 at the AmericInn, Pierre, S.D., and May 27 at the West Western Ramkota, Rapid City, S.D. Ten meetings are scheduled for June.

The Corps was directed by Congress to review the eight original project purposes established by the 1944 Flood Control Act. The eight purposes are flood control, navigation, hydropower, irrigation, water supply, recreation, water quality, and fish and wildlife.

MRAPS is the first-ever review of the legislation that created the system of dams and reservoirs on the Missouri River and major tributaries. The study will determine if changes in the original purposes and the existing federal water resource infrastructure managed by the Corps and Bureau of Reclamation may be warranted

For more information, contact Paul Johnston at (402) 995-2416.

Kirby executive boosts investment in waterway infrastructure

Matt Woodruff, director of government affairs for Kirby Corp., the nation’s largest operator of inland tank barges, was among witnesses May 6 at a Senate committee hearing called to examine how investment in the nation’s water resources infrastructure creates and saves jobs and increases America’s economic competitiveness.

Appearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Woodruff, who also is general counsel of Waterways Council Inc., enlisted the committee’s help with a 20-year plan “to keep our waterways reliable and bring billions of dollars in benefits to our economy, creating and maintaining a host of jobs along the way.â€

The plan, which includes a recommendation that the current diesel fuel tax be increased by 30 to 45 percent, was adopted last month by the Inland Waterways Users Board (WJ, April 19, 2010).

Woodruff, who described the nation’s inland waterways as “a national treasure,†reiterated that barge transportation is “the greenest, safest and most energy-efficient mode of surface transportation.†America without barges, he said, “would be a more congested, polluted, costly and dangerous place.â€

Complaining that inland waterways infrastructure construction projects have been underfunded, Woodruff said that while the surplus in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund has been spent, “we have too little to show for our investment. We place much emphasis on starting projects, but very little on finishing them.â€

Under the 20-year plan, Woodruff said, 25 projects would be finished in the next 20 years, instead of six, and the country would avoid between $350 million and almost $1.2 billion in project-cost growth.

“We also will recognize at least $2.8 billion in benefits from these projects that would be forgone if the projects’ completion were delayed,†he added.

DOT unveils ‘Transportation for a New Generation’

The Department of Transportation has unveiled for public comment its strategic plan for 2010-2015.

Acting Maritime Administrator David T. Matsuda said the plan, entitled “Transportation for a New Generation,†helps set the priorities of the department and offers a blueprint for providing the traveling public with safe, convenient, affordable and environmentally-sustainable transportation choices for the 21st Century.

“Having a government that reaches out to the people is one of the top priorities of the Obama administration,†Matsuda said in a “Dear Colleague†letter. “For example, America’s Marine Highway transportation development is a very important issue to the administration. Taking the time to review the plan and provide comments will only help make marine transportation development stronger across the nation.â€

A copy of the 74-page plan can be viewed and public comment can be received at https://dotstrategicplan.ideascale.com/a/panel.do?id=8329.

Three advisory committees looking for new members

Interested parties have been invited to apply for membership on the Towing Safety Advisory Committee, the National Maritime Security Advisory Committee and the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Advisory Committee.

Membership applications are due May 21 for the towing safety committee, May 31 for the maritime security committee, and June 1 for the fishing industry committee.

For information on application forms, contact Michael Harmon at (202) 372-1427 of the towing safety committee; Ryan Owens at (202) 372-1108 of the maritime security committee; or Jack Kemerer at (202) 372-1249 of the fishing industry committee.

Three bills aim at oil rig explosion in Gulf

Three bills aimed at last month’s oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico have been introduced.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced a bill (S. 3309) to raise the tax rate for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to nine cents a barrel, from five cents, until the unobligated fund balance exceeds $10 billion.

In the House, Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) introduced a bill (H.R. 5214) that would require oil polluters to pay the full cost of oil spills, and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) introduced a bill (H.R. 5222) that would suspend any new oil exploration activities in the outer continental shelf until the joint investigation into the Deepwater Horizon oil rig incident in the Gulf has been completed.

 

About the Author:

Carlo Salzano has been in journalism since graduating from La Salle University in 1948 as a chemistry major. That’s right, chemistry. He began his career as a copy boy at the Philadelphia Inquirer, before moving on to United Press International in Philadelphia, Charleston, West Virgina, Baltimore and Washington. After 14 years, Carlo joined Traffic World magazine and stayed on for 23 years, retiring as editor in 1990. A majority of Carlo’s time at Traffic World was spent covering the maritime community and he continued on in the maritime field while freelancing throughout his “retirement.” He is married and has three children and eight grandchildren.