Congress ‘strongly urged’ to produce WRDA report
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has “strongly urged” the House-Senate conference committee working on the new water resources legislation to resolve its differences and “favorably report a conference report as soon as practicable.”
In a letter to the House and Senate conferees, the chamber said it was “pleased that both the House and Senate (bills) incorporate the recommendation made by the Inland Waterways Users Board to modify the federal cost-share” for the Olmsted Locks and Dam Project.
“The Olmsted Project needs to be completed as soon as practicable, but also additional project cost overruns should be the responsibility of the federal government, not the user-supported Inland Waterways Trust Fund. Accordingly, the chamber favors the Senate’s approach (S. 601), which would shift 100 percent of the remaining costs to general treasury revenue compared to the 75 percent in the House bill (H.R. 3080). Implementing this recommendation would free up approximately $750 million for other capital construction efforts along the inland waterways system.”
As for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, the chamber told the committee that it supports the Senate provision that would provide for “the ultimate full usage of the fund for its intended purpose.” Furthermore, the chamber told the committee it was “very pleased” that both the House and Senate bills would make permanent the authority that allows the secretary of the Army to accept and expend funds contributed by non-federal public entities to expedite the evaluation of permits.
In addition, the chamber said that while it welcomed the increased investment in America’s ports, it was “disappointed by the omission of the recommendation made by the Inland Waterways Users Board to provide predictable, reliable and sustainable revenue to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund from both the House and Senate bills.”
The chamber said that 57 percent of the 238 locks on the inland waterways system are more than 50 years old, well beyond their design life, with 34 locks older than 80 years, according to the National Waterways Foundation. “It is critical to address the gap between needs and resources of the inland waterways,” the chamber said.
The chamber concluded with the warning that failure to achieve a conference report would be a “missed opportunity. Rather than bearing fruit, the shared policy reforms of the House and Senate packages would die on the vine, and outdated and inefficient laws would continue. The economic growth potential of infrastructure investment would be squandered and job losses would likely continue in the coming months and years.”
Barge industry ready to haul shale gas wastewater
The American Waterways Operators (AWO) told the Department of Transportation on Dec. 6 that it “strongly supports” the carriage of shale gas extraction wastewater (SGEWW) — also known as frack water — by barge.
Commenting on the Coast Guard’s draft policy for the bulk carriage of conditionally permitted SGEWW, Jennifer Carpenter, newly promoted to AWO executive vice president, said that barge transportation “offers significant environmental advantages given the tugboat, towboat and barge industry’s strong record of transporting hazardous or potentially hazardous materials safely. We believe that the requirements proposed in the draft policy letter are reasonable, with two qualifications aimed at shifting the focus from mitigating risk after loading to controlling risk prior to loading.”
As for the qualifications, Carpenter said the AWO believes testing and documentation that a load of SGEWW meets the required tolerances should be conducted by the offerer of the cargo before the cargo is loaded onto the barge. Also, Carpenter said, the AWO believes the proposed requirement that the barge owner have the barge surveyed before another cargo can be carried, and before personnel may enter the barge, is unnecessary.
Corps revises service levels at Red River locks, dams
The Army Corps of Engineers has published a new notice proposing levels of service at locks and dams on the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway on Louisiana’s Red River. The notice replaces the original notice published in the Federal Register on June 6 last year.
In the notice published Dec. 18, the Corps said that the hours of availability for locking at the Lindy C. Boggs Lock and Dam, John H. Overton Lock and Dam, Lock and Dam No. 3, Russell B. Long Lock and Dam, and Joe D. Waggonner Jr. Lock and Dam will remain at the current schedule of 24 hours per day, seven days a week for one year beginning Feb. 1. Future levels of service for each of the five locks and dams will be reassessed following this period.
For more information, contact Michael Kidby at (202) 761-0250.
Mariners waiting longer for credentials
The National Maritime Center has advised merchant mariners that it is experiencing longer processing times and inventories for merchant mariner credential (MMC) applications and other products and services.
The center said the longer times can be partly attributed to the recent lapse of appropriations (government furlough) and the surge of applicants seeking security endorsements required by Jan. 1.
Following the lapse in funds in October, the center said it began to reprioritize credentialing evaluation and production, and those efforts continue. The center said it has implemented additional contingency plans within its legal and operational authorities to address products and services that are being negatively affected.
Corps plans SEIS for middle Mississippi River
The Army Corps of Engineers has announced its intention to prepare a draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the Middle Mississippi River Regulating Works Project.
The project is the means by which the Corps provides a safe and dependable 9-foot navigation channel on the middle Mississippi River, which lies between the confluences of the Ohio and Missouri rivers.
The original EIS for the project was finalized in 1976, the Corps said. It has been determined that there is sufficient significant new information regarding the potential impacts of the project on the human environment to warrant the preparation of an SEIS.
Questions about the proposed action and SEIS should be addressed to Jasen Brown at (314) 331-8540.
Corps posts report on aquatic nuisance species
The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study Report on aquatic nuisance species (ANS) has been posted by the Army Corps of Engineers on http://glmris.anl.gov.
The report presents a range of options and technologies that could be applied to prevent the transfer of nuisance species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins through aquatic connections.
The Corps identified 13 aquatic nuisance species of concern in one basin that posed a high or medium risk of adverse impacts by transfer and establishment in the other basin.
The Corps analyzed and evaluated available controls to address those ANS and formulated alternatives specifically for the Chicago Area Waterway System with the goal of preventing ANS transfer between the two basins.
The Corps opened a two-month period for comment on the report, from Jan. 6 to March 3. Dates and locations of seven public meetings on the report, all in January, are listed in the Federal Register of Jan. 6. For more information, contact David Wethington at (312) 846-5522.
Responding to the report, Tom Allegretti, president and CEO of the American Waterways Operators, said it was clear that one of the options, physical separation, “is neither economically feasible nor will it be effective at eliminating all identified pathways for the spread of invasive species, including Asian carp.”
“Severing a critical part of the nation’s water transportation network is too high a price to pay for a solution that is not guaranteed to stop the spread of invasive species,” he said.
Rules on use of river reservoirs amended
The Army Corps of Engineers is amending rules regarding the use and administration of the reservoirs at the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The Corps said it would amend its rules by deleting from the Code of Regulations all references to minimum discharges and to operating limits for the reservoirs.
The Corps said its St. Paul District recently adopted an updated operating plan for the headwaters reservoirs that contains minimum flow values different from those currently in the Code of Regulations.
Deleting all references to minimum flows in the regulations will eliminate the current discrepancy between the regulations and the approved operating plan for the reservoirs, the Corps said. The operating limits are also contained in the operating plan for the reservoirs and eliminating both the minimum flow values and the operating limits from the rule will make it unnecessary to amend the regulations each time the values are modified in the operating plan in the future.
The amended rules will become effective Jan. 27. For more information, contact Kenton Spalding at (651) 290-5623.
Seaway sets higher toll rates for 2014 season
The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. announced last month that toll rates will increase 2.5 percent during the 2014 navigation season.
The corporation also announced that the 2014 schedule would continue the seaway’s incentive programs, including a 20 percent discount on cargo tolls for three seasons for any commodity/origin/destination combination approved as being new business.
The seaway also features a Volume Rebate Incentive Program offering a 10 percent reduction on cargo tolls for the incremental volume increase over the highest volume achieved by a shipper/receiver during the previous five years, and a Service Incentive Program offering an additional 20 percent discount on cargo tolls for new business export cargo for a regular service in the Great Lakes.