Brownwater News, March 2016

Congress authorizes Coast Guard, FMC through FY 17

The U.S. House approved a bill on Feb. 1 authorizing the U.S. Coast Guard and Federal Maritime Commission through fiscal year 2017. The legislation was sent to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

The bill (H.R. 4188), which passed the Senate in December, is similar to a measure that unanimously passed the House last May, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, said the bill authorizes the Coast Guard for two years and strengthens its ability to recapitalize an aging fleet of cutters and aircraft “that are decades past their prime.”

The two years of funding authorization provides a “clear path for the construction of an essential heavy icebreaker and a new fleet of offshore cutters,” said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., ranking member of the subcommittee.

OMB reviews Subchapter M for towboat inspections

Jennifer Carpenter, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the American Waterways Operators, informed AWO members Feb. 16 that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has accepted the Coast Guard’s proposed Subchapter M rulemaking package for review.

Carpenter said the review is the final step in the administration’s process and generally takes about 90 days, meaning that the rule likely will be published in the Federal Register in May or June.

The proposal, known officially as 46 Code of Federal Regulations Subchapter M, would establish safety regulations governing the inspection, standards and safety management systems of towing vessels.

The proposed rulemaking, originally announced by the Coast Guard in the Federal Register of Aug. 11, 2011, includes provisions covering specific electrical and machinery requirements for new and existing towing vessels, the use and approval of third-party auditors and surveyors, and procedures for obtaining certificates of inspection.

The Coast Guard also seeks data, information and public comment on potential requirements for hours of service or endurance management for mariners aboard towing vessels.

The Coast Guard said in its 2011 announcement that the intent of the proposed rulemaking is to promote safer work practices and reduce casualties on towing vessels by requiring that they adhere to prescribed safety standards and safety management systems, or to an alternative annual Coast Guard inspection regime.

Carpenter said the AWO and Coast Guard are preparing for publication of Subchapter M by developing post-publication plans for communications, timely gathering of industry input on implementation policy issues and final Coast Guard acceptance of the Responsible Carrier Program as a towing safety management system.

“Navigating the transition to Subchapter M is our industry’s highest advocacy and safety priority,” Carpenter said.

For more information, contact Carpenter at (703) 841-9300, Ext. 260.

DOT has $500 million for TIGER’s eighth round

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced that $500 million will be made available for transportation projects in the eighth round of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program.

Since 2009, TIGER has provided nearly $4.6 billion to 381 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, including 134 projects to support rural and tribal communities, Foxx said.

“Demand has been overwhelming, and during the previous seven rounds, the Department of Transportation received more than 6,700 applications requesting more than $134 billion for transportation projects across the country,” Foxx said. “The 2015 TIGER round alone is leveraging $500 million in federal investment to support $1.4 billion in overall transportation investments.”

TIGER funding is provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, which was signed by President Obama on Dec. 18, 2015. Applications are due April 29.

Semonite nominated as next US chief of engineers

President Obama has nominated Maj. Gen. Todd Semonite as the 54th chief of engineers. He will succeed Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, who will retire May 19.

Semonite previously served as the deputy chief of engineers and the deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as the commanding general of both the South Atlantic and North Atlantic divisions. More recently, Semonite led the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan during a 13-month deployment.

House panel scores Corps’ implementation guidance

The House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee held a hearing Feb. 24 to review Army Corps of Engineers reports to Congress on future water resources development and Corps chief’s reports.

Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, chairman of the subcommittee, used his opening statement to remind the Corps that nearly two years after the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 was enacted, nearly half of the implementation guidance has not been issued.

“The Corps seems to be slow-walking the implementation guidance,” Gibbs said. “While the WRRDA law is transformative, and in some places complicated, we remain disappointed at the pace and the prioritization at which the Corps of Engineers is carrying out the drafting of the implementation guidance. After all, WRRDA is the law of the land — it is not a suggestion for the administration to casually disregard.”

Gibbs said the Corps’ first annual report in 2015 did the not meet the subcommittee’s expectations, but the 2016 report delivered several weeks ago “is an improved product.” The Corps re-evaluated many of the projects rejected in the 2015 annual report and has included them for consideration, he said.

The subcommittee intends to move a smaller WRRDA bill during the current session of Congress, Gibbs said. “This bill will be consensus-driven and bipartisan, will address several clarifying and technical changes to WRRDA 2014, and will hopefully also authorize some of the projects that are included in the 2015 and 2016 annual reports.”

Waterways users board to meet April 1

The 78th meeting of the Inland Waterways Users Board has been scheduled for April 1 at the Hotel Monaco in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Kenneth Lichtman, executive assistant of the users board, said that on March 31 members will visit the Montgomery Locks and Dam at mile 31.7 of the Ohio River, and Locks and Dam 4 (Charleroi Locks and Dam) at mile 41.5 of the Monongahela River.

For more information, contact Mark Pointon at (703) 428-6438 or Lichtman at (703) 428-8083.

By Professional Mariner Staff