Congress approves new water resources legislation
The Senate voted 78 to 21 on Dec. 10 to provide final congressional approval for comprehensive water resources legislation that addresses the needs of America’s harbors, locks, dams, flood protection and other related infrastructure.
The Senate vote came only two days after the House voted 360 to 61 in favor of the legislation, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act.
A key component of the WIIN Act is Title 1, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA 2016), which authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to undertake port, waterway and flood protection improvements across the country.
“Without question, this infrastructure legislation is a win for America,” said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "The improvements in the WIIN Act are critical regional priorities, like the long-overdue upgrades for the Upper Ohio River’s Emsworth, Dashields and Montgomery locks and dams, but they also provide significant national economic benefits.”
The National Waterways Conference reported on Nov. 30 that there were “positive signs from Capitol Hill that we’ll see a final water resources bill before the 114th Congress adjourns.”
The Waterways Council Inc. applauded the efforts of the House Transportation Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that led to final passage of the WIIN Act.
The WCI said WIIN/WRDA 2016 includes the council’s key request to authorize inland navigation projects based on final Army Corps of Engineers’ chief reports for Calcasieu Lock (Louisiana), the Upper Ohio Navigation System (Pennsylvania), and deepening of Brazos Island Harbor in Texas (Brownsville Ship Channel). The bill did not contain a public-private partnership provision that could have allowed for the collection of tolls or lockage fees on tributary waterways.
“WCI stakeholder resistance successfully helped to defeat this onerous proposal from becoming part of WIIN/WRDA 2016,” said Michael Toohey, WCI president and CEO. The return to a regular, biennial process for water resources legislation was also hailed by the WCI.
AAPA: Port investments will help ‘make America great again’
Using the words of President-elect Donald Trump, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) sent Trump’s transition team a paper outlining opportunities to “make America great again” through strategic investments in seaports and related freight transportation assets, “thereby helping U.S. businesses better compete in markets at home and abroad.”
Trump has put forth an “ambitious goal of investing up to $1 trillion to rebuild America’s infrastructure, for which freight transportation and ports are vital components,” said AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle. “An enhanced focus on freight transportation and ports would help achieve the new administration’s goal of building a better economic future for America.”
Key recommendations laid out by the AAPA include:
• Relieving traffic bottlenecks and expanding capacity by providing additional FAST Act investments and a sustainable freight trust fund to plan and build multimodal projects; supporting funding for a robust StrongPorts program under the Maritime Administration to help ports plan for their 21st century infrastructure needs; increasing investments for authorized marine highway projects to ensure transportation alternatives alongside congested landside transportation corridors; and increasing funding for transportation infrastructure grants to $1.25 billion per year.
• Modernizing and fully maintaining navigation channels by making harbor maintenance tax (HMT) spending a priority; continuing the goal toward full use of the HMT; ensuring equity and fairness of HMT spending in the fiscal year 2018 budget request, including funding for donor and energy transfer ports; devising a permanent solution as part of tax reform or other legislation for ensuring all annual HMT revenues are spent; increasing federal investment in navigation channel deepening and widening; improving efficiencies in the deep-draft study and construction process; continuing progress to finish navigation projects in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Physical Oceanic Real-Time System, or PORTS, to help mariners navigate safely.
• Securing America’s ports and waterside borders by increasing funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) to at least $100 million per year; directing grant funding to ports rather than other entities with very low commercial threats; continuing the management and control of the PSGP at the federal level; providing 500 additional Customs and Border Protection personnel to U.S. seaports to meet trade needs and ensure cargo is safe and moves efficiently; getting adequate federal funding to purchase, install and maintain radiation portal monitors (RPM) within ports throughout the U.S.
“Nations worldwide have recognized the need to invest significantly in their freight networks to accommodate increasing volumes, larger vessels and be competitive,” Nagle said. “It’s vital that the United States invest significantly in its ports and freight network.
“America’s seaport activity accounts for over a quarter of the national economy and supports more than 23 million jobs," he said. "Local ports and their private-sector partners plan to invest nearly $55 billion into infrastructure over the next five years. Leveraging federal investments in seaport and freight-related programs will yield huge dividends in the form of economic growth, maintaining and creating jobs, enhancing America’s international competitiveness and sustaining a healthy environment.”
Seaway announces winter closing dates
St. Lawrence Seaway administrators have announced this year’s winter closing dates while warning of the possibility of severe weather that could affect the schedule for the international waterway.
For the Montreal-Lake Ontario Section, Seaway administrators have decided to waive the operational surcharges on Dec. 21, 22, 23 and 24. Any transit of that section after Dec. 24, if permitted, will be subject to prior written agreement. Arrangements are to be made with the Seaway’s office in St. Lambert, Quebec. Regardless of operating conditions, all vessels must be clear of the Montreal-Lake Ontario Section at 1200 hours on Dec. 31.
Administrators said that the Welland Canal will remain open until 2400 hours on Dec. 26, after which any transit will require prior agreement that must be reached via the Seaway’s office in St. Catharines, Ontario. Regardless of operating conditions, all vessels must be clear of the Welland Canal at 1200 hours on Dec. 31.
Closing of the Sault Ste. Marie Locks (U.S.) is currently scheduled for Jan. 15. The Seaway wants vessel operators to note the Notice to Navigation Interests released by the Army Corps of Engineers for further information.
Vessel owners and operators also are advised there are a number of ports east of the Seaway (St. Lambert Lock) on the St. Lawrence River that remain open to navigation during the winter months. Note that Seaway Practices and Procedures (Seaway Handbook), Part X, Sections 96 and 97 outline the navigation closing protocol.
For more information, call (613) 932-5170 (Cornwall, Ontario) or (315) 764-3200 (Massena, N.Y.).
Trump cheered for handing DOT leadership to Chao
Rep. Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, praised President-elect Trump for nominating Elaine Chao as secretary of the Department of Transportation.
“From the start, it was my hope that President-elect Trump would select someone to run the Department of Transportation who has a background leading large organizations, knowledge of how Congress and the legislative process work, and the right mixture of public and private experience necessary to oversee a bold agenda to transform America’s transportation and infrastructure systems for the 21st century,” Shuster said. “Elaine Chao embodies these qualities.”
The National Industrial Transportation League (NITL), the Transportation Institute and the American Maritime Partnership (AMP) also applauded Chao's nomination.
“The league has known and worked with Elaine Chao for three decades, first in her role as the deputy administrator of DOT’s Maritime Administration, then as chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, and, of course, as the deputy secretary of DOT,” said Jennifer Hedrick, the NITL’s executive director. “Importantly, her experience in high-profile key executive roles is not limited solely to the transportation arena. She is eminently qualified to lead the department, and we look forward to working with her and the new team she assembles in the weeks and months ahead.”
The Transportation Institute said Chao “brings a wealth of crucial experience to the job, including her service as secretary of labor, at the DOT and its Maritime Administration, and the Federal Maritime Commission."
“With vast experience across the maritime industry and prior service at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration and the Maritime Commission, Secretary Chao understands the critical role our industry plays in advancing the nation’s economic and national security,” the AMP said.
WCI, National Waterways Foundation elect officials
New leaders have been elected by members of the Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) and the National Waterways Foundation.
At its annual directors meeting in Cincinnati last month, the council named Tim Parker, president of Parker Towing in Tuscaloosa, Ala., as chairman of the board of directors. Parker succeeds Merritt Lane, president and CEO of Canal Barge Co. in New Orleans.
“I look forward to working with WCI and its coalition of waterways stakeholders as we continue to educate those on Capitol Hill, in the Trump administration, in the news media, and the general public about the critical need to maintain and modernize our nation’s ports and inland waterways infrastructure,” Parker said.
The National Waterways Foundation, also meeting in Cincinnati in November, elected Dan Mecklenborg as its new chairman. The senior vice president of Ingram Barge Co. succeeds Mark Knoy, president and CEO of American Commercial Barge Line. Knoy remains with the foundation as immediate past-chairman.
Elected trustees include Tom Allegretti, president and chief operating officer of the American Waterways Operators; Merritt Lane, president and CEO of Canal Barge Co.; and Nelson Spencer, chairman of The Waterways Journal.
Michael Toohey, president and CEO of the WCI, is president of the foundation; Matt Woodruff of Kirby Corp. is treasurer and Debra Calhoun, senior vice president of the WCI, is secretary.
AWO schedules regional safety meetings
Details are available now for the American Waterways Operators’ regional and safety meetings for the next two months.
The meetings are set for Houston on Jan. 25-27 and Seattle on Feb. 1-2 and Feb. 8-9. For more information and registration details, contact Anne Fazzini at email@example.com before Jan. 4.
AWO promotes Safety Statistics Reporting Program
The American Waterways Operators has urged all of its member companies to participate in its Safety Statistics Reporting Program (SSRP). The AWO said its board of directors has set the goals of 75 percent carrier member participation by the end of 2016 and 100 percent participation by the close of 2017.
While the tracking of safety data is a requirement of the Responsible Carrier Program, there is currently no requirement for members to report the data to the AWO. “But since all RCP-certified companies must track these data points in some way already, why not take the next step and report your safety statistics confidentially through the SSRP?” the association’s Nov. 29 letter stated.
Members with questions about the program can contact Brian Bailey at (703) 841-9300, Ext. 252.