Brownwater News, January 2020

Spending bill includes $48 billion for energy and water programs

The fiscal year 2020 spending bill signed by President Trump near the end of December — a $1.4 trillion package to fund the federal government through next September — included $48.3 billion for energy and water programs.

Among the agencies funded by the measure was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will receive $7.65 billion, a $652 million increase over FY 2019. The bill contains six new construction starts for the Corps and six new study starts.

The bill included $2.68 billion for construction, $3.79 billion for operations and maintenance, $1.63 billion for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, $75.5 million available from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), $375 million for the Mississippi River and tributaries, and $210 million for the Corps’ regulatory program.

The Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) also noted that the bill allows Congress, just for FY 2020, to adjust the construction cost share for the Chickamauga Lock on the Tennessee River to 65 percent General Revenue funding and 35 percent IWTF (from 50-50).

The council said the cost-share change enables efficient funding of all ongoing construction projects to advance their delivery and reduce final costs. The bill exceeds full use of the estimated receipts of the IWTF, the council added.

Chris Connor, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, was pleased that the bill funded many port-related programs supported by the AAPA, including $1 billion for Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA). Connor said that while Congress directed that multimodal projects should not be the focus of that program in FY 2020, “the secretary of transportation is directed to invest in a variety of transportation modes — including port infrastructure improvements and multimodal infrastructure projects —with this year’s grants.”

Turning to other legislation, Connor also heralded approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) as “an important step for enhancing the ability of America’s seaports to deliver jobs, economic opportunities and efficient movement of goods and people.”

MarAd awards $7.5 million in Marine Highway grants

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) announced on Jan. 6 that it has awarded $7.5 million in grants to nine Marine Highway projects. The funding will go toward enhancing existing services in Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the investment will improve the nation’s “vital fuel-efficient waterway transportation system.” Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby said the Marine Highway program “is dedicated to expanding the use of our waterways for freight movement. This round of grant funding will be used to continue that expansion and ensure that our waterways are used effectively.”

Chris Connor, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, said that ports with Marine Highway designations have reported that the program provides “an important option in utilizing waterways and incorporating this tool into their freight network.”

Among the largest grants was $1.3 million for the Florida-South Carolina container barge service between the Port of Fernandina and the Port of Charleston, and $1.6 million to support the expansion of barge services from the Port of Morrow in Oregon to Portland, Vancouver, Wash., and Longview, Wash.

Click here for the complete list of Marine Highway grants.

NWC sets Legislative Summit for March 9-11

The National Waterways Conference (NWC) has scheduled its 2020 Legislative Summit for March 9-11 at the Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Among the speakers invited to address attendees are R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army (Civil Works), and Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, commanding general and chief of engineers for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The conference and the Mississippi Valley Flood Control Association will co-host a congressional reception on March 10.

The summit will be held a month after President Trump is scheduled to release his fiscal year 2021 budget for federal agencies.

New WCI videos promote value of inland waterways

The Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) has produced six videos in its continuing effort to educate the public about the inland waterways’ connection to agriculture, labor, shippers and building stronger communities.

The videos include an interview with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, as well as an interview with project manager Don Getty of the Army Corps of Engineers.

For more information about the videos, contact Deb Calhoun, WCI senior vice president, at (202) 765-2153.

Panama Canal board names first female deputy administrator

On New Year’s Day, Ilya Espino de Marotta became deputy administrator of the Panama Canal, making history as the first woman to ever hold the position.

Espino de Marotta began her career at the canal in 1985 as the sole female engineer at the shipyard. She recently served as the vice president of transit business and executive vice president of engineering during the canal expansion program.

“Ilya skillfully oversaw the construction of the expanded canal, leading the waterway into a new era for global shipping,” said Aristides Royo, chairman of the Panama Canal Board of Directors.

Espino de Marotta holds a bachelor's degree in marine engineering from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in economic engineering from Universidad Santa Maria La Antigua in Panama City, Panama. She participated in the Executive Development Program at Costa Rica’s INCAE Business School and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, and has earned project manager certification from the Project Management Institute.

By Professional Mariner Staff