House panel OKs slight decrease in Army Corps funding
The House Appropriations Committee has approved $7.63 billion in fiscal year 2021 funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a decrease of $21 million from FY20’s record-setting appropriation but $1.7 billion above President Trump’s FY21 budget request.
The House bill also provides for seven new study starts and seven new construction projects to be selected by the administration, one of which is for inland waterways lock and dam modernization.
The Corps’ investigations account funding is $151 million, equal to the FY20 enacted level and $48 million above the FY21 request. Funding for the construction account is $2.62 billion, a decrease of $61 million from FY20 but $447 million above FY21’s request.
The Inland Waterways Trust Fund funding level is $90 million for a total of at least $180 million in funding for construction and major rehabilitation of inland waterways projects.
Funding for operations and maintenance (O&M) is $3.84 billion, an increase of $48 million from FY20 and $1.8 billion above the administration request.
Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) projects would receive $1.68 billion, $50 million above the FY20 level and an increase of $665 million from the administration’s request. This represents 92 percent of estimated HMTF revenue, an increase of 9 percent above the target set by the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014.
The Corps of Engineers will also receive an additional $17 billion in emergency funding to accelerate work on Corps projects. Of that amount, the construction account will receive $10 billion to speed projects across all Corps mission areas, at least $3 billion of which is for inland waterways projects. The bill also provides $5 billion in O&M emergency funding.
AAPA encourages quick passage of relief act to aid ports
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) is lauding a congressional bill that would create a program to allocate emergency relief grant funds and provide other assistance to public port authorities.
The Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act, introduced in July, would provide funds for emergency response, cleaning and sanitization, staffing, workforce retention and paid leave, procurement and use of personal protective equipment, debt service payments, and infrastructure repair.
“COVID-19 relief is critical for the port and maritime industry in response to challenges faced as a result of the pandemic,” said AAPA President and CEO Christopher Connor. “Relief grant funds will help U.S. ports to manage the impact that this pandemic is having on their ability to function efficiently and for maintaining a ‘state of readiness.’ … It’s AAPA’s hope that the bill be adopted with a strong intent for its funding and that Congress will move expeditiously.”
The AAPA represents 130 of the leading seaport authorities in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, and more than 200 industry solution providers and associate members, firms and individuals with an interest in seaports.
Waterways Council Inc. names Tracy Zea as president and CEO
Tracy Zea is the new president and chief executive officer of the Waterways Council Inc. (WCI). He took over July 8 for Deb Calhoun, who served in the role on an interim basis for six months.
Zea, elected unanimously by the WCI board, most recently was the organization’s vice president of government relations. He joined WCI in 2015, transitioning from the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, where he helped with Federal Aviation Administration and highway reauthorizations, and played an integral part in the enactment of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014.
“Tracy knows WCI’s issues and membership extremely well, and he embodies the drive, creativity and enthusiasm this position requires,” said Peter Stephaich, board chairman.
The WCI advocates for a modern and well-maintained national system of ports and inland waterways. The group is supported by waterways carriers, shippers, port authorities, shipping associations and waterway advocacy groups from all regions of the country.
Over 30 US ports to receive port security grants
The Port Security Grant Program is one of seven that will share $385 million allocated in June by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for 2020.
This allows the program to provide $100 million to more than 30 U.S. port authorities and terminal operators, municipalities and policing agencies to help protect critical port infrastructure from terrorism, enhance maritime domain awareness, improve portwide maritime security risk management, and maintain or re-establish maritime security mitigation protocols.
FEMA said it gave priority consideration for projects that enhance protection of soft targets/crowded places; enhance weapons of mass destruction and improvised explosive device prevention, detection, response and recovery capabilities; enhance cybersecurity; and address emergent threats such as unmanned aerial systems.
“The Port Security Grant Program protects our country, our workers and our supply chains. Ports large and small use these grants to stay vigilant, to ‘harden’ their facilities and networks, and to prepare for attacks,” said Cary Davis, government relations director for the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA).
“AAPA is proud to fight tooth-and-nail for this program in light of proposed cuts. We thank Congress, FEMA and the entire Department of Homeland Security for their tireless work on behalf of America’s maritime gateways,” Davis said.
Eight Marine Highway projects to share $9.5 million
Eight projects across the nation, including seven that will revitalize economically distressed communities, have received $9.5 million in funding via the U.S. Maritime Administration’s Marine Highway Program.
The funding supports enhancement of navigable waterways and expands existing waterborne freight services in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington and American Samoa. Funded projects include everything from purchasing cranes, cameras, a container tilter and forklifts, to launching a new barge service.
Of the eight projects that were awarded grants, seven are located in Opportunity Zones, which were created to revitalize low-income and economically distressed communities using private investment.
The Marine Highway Program promotes the increased use of the nation’s navigable waterways to ensure landside congestion relief, new and efficient transportation options, and increased performance of the surface transportation system.
For more details about the latest grants, click here.
WCI to hold annual meeting online in November
The WCI Annual Meeting and Fall Waterways Symposium will be held virtually, rather than in Las Vegas, on Nov. 11. Details are being worked out, and a second half-day session may take place Nov. 12.
GICA replaces August seminar with virtual event
After surveying members, attendees and stakeholders, the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association (GICA) has switched its August seminar and events to a one-day virtual event on Aug. 6.
The group said the online event will “carry on the tradition of an informative, interactive exchange of views on a broad range of (Gulf Intracoastal Waterway) and inland waterways topics.” More information is available at www.gicaonline.com.
Senate committee advances water resources bills
After a six-week COVID-related break, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously passed two water resources bills: the 2020 version of a Water Resources Development Act, and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020. Next up is passage by the full Senate.
The bills passed in May are “critical to our economic recovery after the immediate pandemic response is behind us,” said EPW Committee Chairman Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. The measures have received strong bipartisan backing and more than 150 letters of support from industry stakeholders.
Corps makes headway on levee safety guidance
Due to ongoing concerns related to COVID-19, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given the public through July 27 to comment on draft guidance about levee safety.
The National Waterways Council, which represents a wide spectrum of water resource stakeholders, weighed in and said it is most interested in proposed policy revisions for levee inspection protocol and considerations on how to better incorporate risk threats into levee safety.
The Corps’ draft guidance would be valid for two years, after which the agency plans to issue permanent guidance based on lessons learned and stakeholder input. Visit the Corps Levee Safety Program website for more information.
AWO video focuses on towing’s crucial role in pandemic
The American Waterways Operators (AWO) has created a short video highlighting the indispensable role of the towing industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Tugboat, Towboat and Barge Industry: Helping America Navigate COVID-19" shows how commercial mariners are continuing to deliver cargo across America and make vital contributions to the nation's economy and security while navigating challenges in the pandemic.
"Many people don't see a tugboat or towboat in their daily lives, but our industry is still hard at work, delivering crucial commodities and making a real contribution to our nation's security and prosperity," said Jennifer Carpenter, AWO's president and CEO. "The response of the men and women of American maritime to the challenge of COVID-19 has shined a bright light on their long-standing resilience and adaptability. Our goal with this video is to draw attention to their hard work toward keeping America supplied and safe."
To view the video, click here.