BrownWater News, July 2013

Waterways Council sure new development act ‘will make it’

Michael J. Toohey, president and chief executive of the Waterways Council Inc. (WCI), and John Doyle, a lobbyist with the Washington, D.C., law firm of Jones Walker, are looking forward to congressional approval of a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

Doyle, on hand for WCI’s annual press briefing June 24, said he was “sure that WRDA will make it. I’m not sure that it will be this year, but I’m sure it will make it.”

Still uncertain is how much support can be expected from the House leadership for a new WRDA bill. Doyle felt that question would be answered if and when House leaders give supporters “floor time” to move the legislation forward to a final vote.

The Senate passed a new WRDA bill May 15 but the House is still working on its version.

Toohey, who echoed Doyle’s optimism with regard to WRDA, emphasized that the barge and towing industry “is a huge player in the nation’s transportation system.”

Toohey pointed out in a slide presentation that 61 percent of the nation’s domestic waterborne commerce is transported on inland waterways.

In 2011, inland waterways handled 554 million tons of commodities valued at $178 billion, according to WCI records. Coal represented 32 percent of the total, followed by petroleum products at 25 percent, crude materials at 16 percent, food and farm products at 13 percent, and chemicals at 9 percent.

Referring to the Olmsted locks and dam project on the Ohio River as “the poster child for current projects over budget,” Toohey noted that the Senate WRDA bill (S. 601) took the remaining construction expenses for Olmsted from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and moved them to the general treasury for payment, freeing about $750 million in the trust fund to complete priority navigation projects. If the funding move is not finalized, Toohey said, “every dollar in the trust fund will be going to (the Olmsted) project.”

The original cost estimate for the Olmsted locks and dam project in 1988 was $775 million. The current estimate is $3.1 billion, with completion expected in about 2024 if the project’s expenses stay within the trust fund.

House, Senate bills propose Corps funding for 2014

The Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee on June 25 proposed $34.8 billion in funding for fiscal year 2014, which is $1.9 billion less than what was enacted for 2013.

The bill includes $5.3 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, a $300 million increase from this year. The proposed Corps’ funding includes $2.7 billion for operations and maintenance, up $300 million from 2013; $1.5 billion for construction, down $129 million; $300 million for the Mississippi River and tributaries, up $48 million; $200 million for the regulatory program, up $7 million; and $120 million for investigations, down $5 million.

The week before, the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Committee passed similar legislation totaling $30.4 billion, including $4.9 billion for the Corps. The proposed Corps funding includes $90 million for investigations, $1.3 billion for construction, $2.7 billion for operations and maintenance, $193 million for the regulatory program and $249 million for the Mississippi River and tributaries.

WCI and the National Waterways Conference noted that the Senate and House bills both incorporate the elements of the Inland Waterways Capital Development Plan.

The plan, pieced together by business leaders and the Corps of Engineers and endorsed by the Inland Waterways Users Board, would prioritize completion of navigation projects across the entire inland waterways system; aim to deliver projects on time and on budget; recommend an affordable user-fee funding mechanism; and realize a sustainable annual appropriation of $380 million.

Under “recommended reforms,” the plan preserves the existing cost-sharing formula (50 percent industry, 50 percent federal) for new lock construction and major lock rehabilitation projects costing $50 million or more. It calls for 100 percent federal funding for dam construction, major dam rehabilitation and smaller lock rehabilitation projects costing less than $50 million. It also calls for a 45 percent increase (9 cents per gallon) in the existing fuel tax of 20 cents per gallon paid by the barge and towing industry.

Eleven groups to serve on waterways users board

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has approved the selection of 11 representative organizations to serve on the Inland Waterways Users Board.

The organizations/companies, whose two-year terms extend to May 27, 2015, are American Electric Power River Operations, Alter Logistics Inc., America Commercial Lines, Amherst Madison Inc., Bruce Oakley Inc., CGB Enterprises, CONSOL Energy Inc., Ingram Barge Co., Kirby Corp., Parker Towing Co. and Tidewater Barge Lines.

TSA, GAO offer differing views of TWIC readers

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) continues to be one of many “security layers” protecting the nation’s port facilities and vessels.

Testifying on June 18 before the House Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, Assistant Administrator Stephen Sadler of the TSA’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis said a TWIC reader pilot program produced “valuable information concerning the environmental, operational and fiscal impacts of the use of TWIC readers.”

“Each security layer builds upon and complements the others,” Sadler said. “TWIC is one of those layers.”

While the TSA sees TWIC as a valuable “security layer,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded in a recent report on the TWIC reader pilot program that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should not use an analysis of the program as a basis for developing the final TWIC reader regulation. The GAO found the test results to be “incomplete, inaccurate and unreliable.”

On hand to defend the GAO report was Stephen Lord, director of the GAO’s Forensic Audits and Investigative Service. Lord said the office identified eight areas where TWIC reader data collection, supporting documentation and recording weaknesses affected the completeness, accuracy and reliability of the pilot results.

Citing one area of concern, Lord said pilot site records did not contain complete information about the design of installed TWIC readers and access control systems.

“The data gathered during the testing were incomplete,” Lord said. “For example, 10 of 15 sites tested readers for which no record of system design characteristics was recorded. In addition, pilot reader information was identified for four pilot sites but did not identify the specific readers or associated software tested.”

Senate confirms Foxx to head DOT

American Waterways Operators congratulated Mayor Anthony Foxx of Charlotte, N.C., for winning Senate confirmation to succeed Ray LaHood as secretary of the Department of Transportation.

“AWO and its members stand ready to work with Mayor Foxx in his new role as secretary,” said Tom Allegretti, president and chief executive of the AWO. “Our industry was especially grateful to hear Mayor Foxx express his commitment to the continued integrity of the Jones Act, echoing the long-standing position of the Obama administration, as that law is foundational to the domestic maritime industry and essential to our economic and national security.”

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved the Foxx nomination on May 10 and the Senate made it final June 27.

Foxx, who turned 42 on April 30, began his political career in 2005 with his election to City Council as an at-large representative. He served two terms before being elected the youngest mayor of Charlotte in 2009.

Corps plans service reduction at Red River waterway

The Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to reduce the level of service at locks and dams on the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway (Red River).

The Corps said in a notice published June 6 that the hours of availability at Lock 3 and the Russell B. Long and Joe D. Waggonner locks will be reduced from the current schedule of 24 hours per day to 20 hours per day. The Corps said that the intended effect is to provide lock availability that matches existing lock usage. Pool levels will not be affected by the change in operating hours.

The proposed implementation date is Feb. 1, 2014. For more information, call Michael Kidby at (202) 761-0250.

First female general officer named to MRC

Brig. Gen. Margaret Burcham, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, has been appointed to the Mississippi River Commission (MRC).

Burcham, the first female general officer to be appointed to the commission, took command of the GL/OR Division on Sept. 19, 2011.

AWO, Coast Guard continue towboat rider program

For the second consecutive year, cadets from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy are spending time on board tugboats and towboats as part of a program under the auspices of the Coast Guard-America Waterways Operators Safety Partnership.

The Coast Guard Academy Cadet Towing Vessel Rider Program was established in February 2012 to educate cadets about the tugboat, towboat and barge industry through a week or more of shoreside and onboard training.

This summer, AWO members Blessey Marine Services, Canal Barge Co., Foss Maritime Co., McAllister Towing and Seabulk Towing will host 11 cadets for their training experience in New Orleans, New York, Seattle and Tampa, Fla.

By Professional Mariner Staff