BrownWater News, February 2015

Obama budgets $4.7 billion for Corps civil works in FY 2016

President Obama has asked the new Republican-dominated 114th Congress for $4.7 billion for the fiscal year 2016 civil works program of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Last year, the administration asked Congress for $4.6 billion for this fiscal year’s civil works program that eventually was approved at $5.4 billion.

The total sought for the Corps’ civil works program in FY 2016, which was part of a $4 trillion budget request the administration made to Congress for the fiscal year beginning next Oct. 1, included $1.2 billion for construction, down 28 percent from $1.6 billion appropriated for this fiscal year; $2.7 billion for operations and maintenance, down 6.8 percent from this fiscal year’s appropriation; and $97 million for investigations, up from $80 billion sought last year for this fiscal year.

The administration sought $180 million for the Olmsted Locks and Dam project in Illinois and Kentucky, and $52 million for the Lower Mon Locks and Dams No. 2, 3 and 4 in the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania. Both projects would be cost-shared from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.

Among other FY 2016 budget requests made Feb. 2 by the Obama administration was $9.9 billion for the Coast Guard, up from $9.8 billion sought for FY 2015; $406.8 million for the Maritime Administration, up from $341 million appropriated for this fiscal year; and $94.7 billion for the Department of Transportation, up from $90.9 billion sought for FY 2015.

Michael J. Toohey, president and CEO of the Waterways Council Inc., noted that the administration request for trust fund projects “is more than $100 million below what could be supported by revenues going into the trust fund.”

The work plan for this fiscal year, announced by the Corps on Feb. 2, allocates $205 million for the Olmsted Locks and Dam project, $58 million for the Lower Mon No. 2, 3 and 4, and $12 million for Kentucky Lock.

Also released by the Corps on Feb. 2 was its Civil Works Strategic Plan 2014-2018 that lists five goals designed to guide the Corps into the future. The goals include transformation of the Corps’ civil works program “to deliver sustainable water resources solutions through integrated water resources management,” facilitation of the transportation of commerce on the nation’s coastal channels and inland waterways, and improvement of “the safety and resilience of communities and water resources infrastructure.”

Maritime cybersecurity seminar set for March 2-3

American Military University and the Command, Control and Interoperability Center for Advanced Data Analysis (CCICADA) at Rutgers University have announced that they will co-sponsor the first national conference to address cybersecurity issues for the nation’s maritime operations.

Sponsors of the conference said the Maritime Cybersecurity Learning Seminar and Symposium would examine cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities combined with the unique aspects of the maritime industry to reveal “important new national security issues.” The program will feature discussions about implications for the shipping industry, container industry, port entry security and the proliferation of risks arising from dependence on complex computer networks in all aspects of the maritime transportation system.

The event will be held March 2-3 at CCICADA at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J. The keynote address will be delivered by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Charles Michel, deputy commandant for operations.

Work on locks, dams seen as source of new jobs

A study commissioned and released by the National Waterways Foundation (NWF) found that building, rehabilitating and maintaining the nation’s inland waterway network of locks and dams could provide the job-creation incentive sought to feed and grow this country’s economy.

The NWF said the study by the University of Tennessee and the University of Kentucky — titled “Inland Navigation in the United States: An Evaluation of Economic Impacts and the Potential Effects of Infrastructure Investment” — examines the waterways’ national economic return on investment and the need for an accelerated program of waterways system improvements that sustain and create American jobs.

The study found, among other things, that investment in badly needed improvements to aging lock and dam infrastructure could lead to 350,000 job-years of new, full-time employment. The study also found that if the country invests in its inland waterways, it could sustain 541,000 jobs and more than $1 billion in new job income annually.

Seaway raises toll rate by 2 percent

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. of Canada has announced a toll rate increase of 2 percent for the 2015 navigation season. The new revised tariff was made available on the seaway website Jan. 7, 2015 (

Panama Canal proposes new toll structure

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced a proposal for a new toll structure, following more than a year of informal consultations with representatives from various segments of the industry.

The proposal, approved by ACP directors on Dec. 24, 2014, was opened to formal comments Jan. 5, 2015, with a deadline of Feb. 9. A public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 27.

The proposal calls for containers to be measured and priced on TEUs, dry bulkers on deadweight tonnage capacity and metric tons of cargo, passenger vessels on berths, and LNG carriers on cubic meters. Tankers would be measured and priced on Panama Canal tons and metric tons.

McCain introduces bill to repeal Jones Act

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., proposed legislation in January that would repeal the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the Jones Act, which requires that all goods shipped between waterborne ports of the United States be carried by vessels built in the United States and owned and operated by Americans.

“I have long advocated for a full repeal of the Jones Act, an antiquated law that has for too long hindered free trade, made U.S. industry less competitive and raised price for American consumers,” McCain said on Jan. 13.

Moving immediately to condemn the proposal was Tom Allegretti, chairman of the American Maritime Partnership and president and CEO of the American Waterways Operators. Warning that the McCain proposal would “gut the nation’s shipbuilding capacity,” Allegretti added that the senator’s plan would “outsource our U.S. naval shipbuilding to foreign builders, and cost hundreds of family-wage jobs across this country.”

The Senate declined to consider the provision when it was attached to an unrelated bill on the Keystone XL pipeline, but it still could be revived at a later date.

Seaway transports ‘blowout volume of grain’ in 2014

The St. Lawrence Seaway concluded its 2014 navigation season with 40 million metric tons of cargo, which administrators said represents “a full recovery from the 2009 global financial crisis and its ensuing aftermath.”

“A blowout volume of grain moving through the seaway was the standout feature of the season,” said Terence Bowles, president and CEO of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. in Cornwall, Ontario. “Carriers moved over 12 million metric tons of grain through our locks, the highest volume since the turn of the century some 14 years ago.”

The seaway, which ended its 2014 navigation season Jan. 1 — it’s scheduled to reopen March 28 — handled 7 percent more cargo in 2014 than in the previous year, Bowles reported. The rebound from 2013 was principally due to the boom in grain shipments, strong volumes of iron and steel products, and shipments of road salt to replenish inventories that had been severely depleted during the harsh winter of 2013.

Inland Waterway Users Board to meet Feb. 25

The Inland Waterways Users Board has scheduled its next meeting for Feb. 25, 2015, at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel in Birmingham, Ala.

On Feb. 24, the Army Corps of Engineers will conduct a visit to its navigation projects along the Black Warrior Tombigbee Waterway.

The meeting agenda will include the status of funding for inland navigation projects and studies; the status of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund; the status and path forward for the Olmsted Locks and Dam project; status and path forward for the Locks and Dams 2, 3 and 4 Monongahela River Project; Chickamauga Lock project efficiency funding; an update on the Inland Marine Transportation System Investment Program; Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lock financial data, and the board’s 2014 annual report.

For more information, contact Mark R. Pointon at (703) 428-6438.

FMC chairman nominated to five-year term

President Obama has nominated Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero to a full five-year term expiring June 30, 2019.

Cordero was first nominated to the commission in 2010 for a term that ended June 30, 2014. Obama designated Cordero as chairman of the FMC on April 1, 2013.

New members needed for Lower Miss. panel

The Coast Guard is seeking applications for membership on the Lower Mississippi River Waterway Safety Advisory Committee.

Applicants selected for membership on the committee will not begin their two-year terms until Aug. 27. Completed applications should reach the Coast Guard by March 23. The Coast Guard will be considering applications for 25 positions that expire or become vacant Aug. 27.

For more information, contact Lt. jg. Colin Marquis at (504) 365-2282.

Study touts benefits of smaller barges in upper waterways

Three researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., concluded in a technical paper that continued use of smaller barges to optimize passage through “bottlenecks” across the upper Ohio River “is an important consideration that should be incorporated into future benefit-cost analyses of the upper waterways.”

“Removal of bottlenecks such as the three upper locks on the Ohio River will allow for more efficient fleeting and commodity movements,” the authors said. “Similarly, this paper demonstrates that bottleneck removal at Elizabeth and Charleroi (on the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania) will allow for passage of larger flotillas and the subsequent elimination of vessel trips.”

The paper’s authors, Gwen Shepherd DiPietro, Chris T. Hendrickson and H. Scott Matthews, noted that the narrow 1936 locks at Charleroi were to be replaced with 720-foot twin chambers by 2004, but the plan was delayed due to funding limitations. When the first new chamber at Charleroi is completed, they said, the narrow 1907-era locks and weir dam at Elizabeth will be removed.

The paper was among numerous reports delivered at the 94th annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, held Jan. 11-15 in Washington, D.C.                                                               

By Professional Mariner Staff