VIDA sets uniform standards for incidental water discharges
Legislation that sets uniform standards for incidental discharges from vessels in the United States was signed by President Trump on Dec. 4 to become law. The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), part of the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, passed the House and Senate in November.
The new law places the Environmental Protection Agency in the lead role of establishing standards for ballast water and incidental discharges, and the Coast Guard will monitor and enforce compliance.
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) and the American Waterways Operators (AWO) advocated reforms for a patchwork of federal and state regulations in order to establish a nationally consistent framework for ballast water and other vessel discharges.
“VIDA is bipartisan legislation that will streamline a broken regulatory system in which commercial vessels moving vital maritime commerce on U.S. waterways are subject to inconsistent and duplicative vessel discharge regulations from 25 states and two federal agencies,” the AWO said in a prepared statement. “The legislation will give vessel owners and mariners the certainty of a nationally consistent regulatory system, while ensuring high standards of environmental protection using the best technology economically achievable.”
14 port projects receive BUILD transportation grants
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Dec. 11 announced $1.5 billion in discretionary grants for 91 transportation projects, including 14 port-related initiatives, in 49 states and the District of Columbia.
The funding is made available through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants program to support transportation infrastructure projects across the country. This year, 851 applicants requested more than $10.9 billion in funding.
Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, said the BUILD grants included $22.3 million for the Delaware River and Bay Authority (Delaware/New Jersey); $23.2 million for the city of Emmonak, Alaska; and $25 million for the South Carolina Department of Transportation.
For more information on the BUILD transportation grants, visit www.transportation.gov/BUILDgrants/about.
EPA, Army Engineers release new WOTUS rule
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers have agreed on a proposed rule to redefine “waters of the United States” subject to jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.
The proposal would replace the rule issued in 2015 referred to as WOTUS. The proposed rule (WOTUS II) is expected to be published in the Federal Register in late December and be available for comment for 60 days.
The 2015 rule has been challenged on grounds that it went well beyond the statutory authority of the Clean Water Act. The Legislative Policy Committee of the National Waterways Conference will review the rule and its application to traditionally navigable waters, streams and wetlands.
Trump nominates two to fill FMC vacancies
President Trump took steps this month to fill two vacancies on the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC).
The president nominated Daniel Maffei, a former Democratic congressman from upstate New York, to serve the remainder of a five-year term that expires June 30, 2022. Trump also announced his intention to nominate L.E. Sola, currently on the Florida Board of Pilot Commissioners, for the remainder of a five-year term expiring June 30, 2023.
Maffei was a member of the FMC once before as a replacement for Commissioner Richard Lidinsky, who served as chairman of the FMC from 2009 until 2013.
For more information, contact Carole Wright at (703) 224-8007.
Ports gain from FAST Act, but multimodal funding lags
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) submitted testimony on Capitol Hill on Nov. 28 on the surface transportation needs of the nation's freight network.
Providing oral testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee was Carlos Braceras, president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Braceras said that freight interests, specifically ports, took a big step forward with the passage of the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, which provided $11 billion in dedicated freight funding over five years.
“However, of the $11 billion, only $1.13 billion is multimodal eligible, far below what is needed to build out a 21st-century multimodal freight network,” Braceras said. “Currently, only $200 million of multimodal eligibility remains in the INFRA (Infrastructure for Rebuilding America) account.”
Earlier this year, the AAPA identified more than $20 billion in multimodal needs for public port authorities alone over the next decade. Braceras said that while highways are important to the nation’s freight network, ports are multimodal facilitators, “meaning rail, trucks and ships all need access to ports.”
Charleston to have deepest harbor on East Coast by 2021
The Army Corps of Engineers has announced the allocation of $41.4 million for the Charleston (S.C.) Harbor Deepening Project in the fiscal year 2019 work plan.
The money will further the progress of deepening Charleston Harbor to 52 feet, which would make it the deepest harbor on the East Coast by 2021.
Construction of the deeper harbor started in February after the Corps awarded the first two dredging contracts, totaling about $300 million.
Making Charleston Harbor the deepest on the East Coast “will one day be seen as one of the most impactful moments in South Carolina’s prosperous economic future,” said Gov. Henry McMaster.
WCI names Stephaich as new board chairman
The Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) has named Peter Stephaich as its new chairman of the board, succeeding Tim Parker, president of Parker Towing Co. of Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Stephaich, chairman and CEO of the Campbell Transportation Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa., has served the barge industry for more than 30 years in a number of key roles, including past chairman and past treasurer of the American Waterways Operators.