Obama to nominate Foxx as DOT secretary
President Obama announced April 29 that he intends to nominate Anthony Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, N.C., as successor to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Crediting LaHood with making the U.S. transportation system “not just stronger but also safer,” Obama added that he was “absolutely confident that Anthony is going to do an outstanding job.”
LaHood announced Jan. 29 that he would not be staying on for the president’s second term. LaHood, who served for four years in Obama’s Cabinet, said he would stay only until his successor is confirmed.
Foxx, who turned 42 on April 30, began his political career in 2005 with his election to City Council as an at-large representative and served two terms before being elected the youngest mayor of Charlotte in 2009.
A graduate of Davidson College and New York University’s School of Law, Foxx was an attorney at Hunton & Williams law firm, a trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and staff counsel to the House Judiciary Committee.
Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said that Foxx “has established himself as a strong transportation advocate and has shown the ability to move transportation infrastructure projects in Charlotte.”
Rockefeller said he would move Foxx’s nomination in the Commerce Committee as soon as possible.
McAllister elected new chairman of AWO
Buckley McAllister, president of McAllister Towing, has been elected new chairman of the American Waterways Operators, succeeding Linn Peterson of Kirby Inland Marine. Also elected at the recent AWO Spring Convention was Frank Morton, director of Turn Services, as vice chairman.
Citing the industry’s response to the low-water crisis on the Mississippi River and the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, McAllister said, “We can achieve much more together than we can individually. As for my role on this team, I will do my best to improve the resiliency of your trade association and industry for generations to come.”
DOT has $474 million for TIGER grants
The Department of Transportation has announced the availability of $474 million for distribution under the fifth round of TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants.
Projects eligible for TIGER grants include highway or bridge projects; public transportation projects; passenger and freight rail transportation projects; and marine port infrastructure investments.
Final applications for fifth-round TIGER funds must be submitted by June 3. DOT must obligate funding from the fifth round by Oct. 1, 2014, the beginning of fiscal year 2014.
A nine-page notice of funding availability was published April 26 in the Federal Register. For more information on the TIGER program, contact Howard Hill at (202) 366-0301.
Some St. Mary’s River speed rules ‘impractical’
The U.S. Coast Guard proposes to exempt vessels under 65 feet operating in the St. Mary’s River along Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula from certain speed rules. Exempting those vessels from speed rules in 33 CFR 162.117, the Coast Guard said, “is necessary because enforcement is impractical and the rules impeded the operations of public response vessels.”
Comments on the proposed rules in question, details of which are spelled out in the Federal Register of April 26, should reach the Coast Guard by June 10.
For more information, contact Cmdr. Nicholas Wong at (906) 635-3220.
Small shipyards reminded of available grants
The Maritime Administration (MarAd) has reminded owners and operators of small shipyards that about $9.5 million in grants is still available for capital and related improvements.
MarAd began accepting applications March 26 and will continue to do so until May 28. The agency intends to award grants by July 24.
Applications should be directed to MarAd’s associate administrator for business and finance development. Details of the small shipyard grant program may be found in the April 10 issue of the Federal Register.
For more information, contact David M. Heller at (202) 366-5737.
Towing safety panel seeks new members
The U.S. Coast Guard has invited qualified parties to apply for membership on the Towing Safety Advisory Committee. Applications must be received by May 20.
The 18-member committee advises the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security on matters relating to shallow-draft inland and coastal waterway navigation and towing safety.
The Coast Guard is considering applications for six positions that will become vacant Sept. 30. The six would include three from the barge and towing industry, one from the ports and terminals industry, one from among towing engineers and one representing shippers.
For more information, contact Cmdr. Rob Smith at (202) 372-1926.
AWO members hold 130 meetings with lawmakers
Members of the American Waterways Operators held more than 130 meetings with their U.S. senators and representatives April 17 to advocate the barge and towing industry’s legislative priorities.
The meetings were held during AWO’s Barge-In, an annual event that brings more than 100 vessel owners and operators together to secure bipartisan support for needed improvements to the nation’s waterways infrastructure.
Tom Allegretti, AWO’s president and CEO, noting the importance of the nation’s waterway transportation system in moving critical cargo, said the AWO is “strongly supportive of a uniform, science-based national framework regulating ballast water and other vessel discharges.” Allegretti added that congress should end the “patchwork of conflicting confusing and burdensome” federal and state ballast water requirements.
WCI pushes for WAVE 4 in new WRDA
Peter Stephaich, executive committee member of Waterways Council Inc. (WCI), urged the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee April 16 to include WAVE 4 in a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).
WAVE 4 (H.R. 1149), Waterways are Vital for the Economy, Energy, Efficiency, and Environment Act of 2013, provides a $7.6 billion, 20-year program ($380 million a year) capital investment program to which the industry would contribute $110 million per year and the federal government would contribute $270 million annually. The bill would increase the industry’s diesel fuel user fee by 30 to 45 percent from the current 20 cents per gallon to 26 to 29 cents per gallon.
Stephaich was among several witnesses testifying before the subcommittee at a hearing on foundations for a new WRDA.
The Senate companion bill to H.R. 1149 is the River Act (S. 407).
In an opening statement, Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), subcommittee chairman, hinting that lawmakers should do away with the earmark ban, said that congress “cannot continue to abdicate its constitutional responsibility in determining which projects should go forward.”
Touching on the same topic, another witness, Amy Larson, president and CEO of the National Waterways Conference (NWC), encouraged congress to “reconsider how this country invests in the nation’s water resources infrastructure.”
Turning to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, Larson said the NWC “strongly supports” legislation that would ensure that the revenues collected into the fund are used for their intended purposes.
Michael J. Toohey, president and CEO of WCI, reviewing the president’s proposed $4.8 billion fiscal year 2014 civil works budget for the Army Corps of Engineers, said April 15 that the administration’s per-vessel-user-fee proposal “remains unwelcome by industry.”
Toohey said the administration’s proposal, whose details remain unknown, “appears to be out of touch with the appropriate level of investment from the industry in the River Act and WAVE 4.”
The industry continues to urge inclusion of the Capital Development Plan-initiated user-fee proposal in a WRDA bill, he added.
Waterways industry supports ‘guarantee language’ in WRDA
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (E&PW), urged the waterways industry to let the Senate Appropriations Committee know of its strong support for the “guarantee language” in S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act of 2013.
The language would ensure that the deposits into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) are fully expended for their intended purpose.
In a recent letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of E&PW and Vitter, the Appropriations Committee chaired by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) expressed its “serious concerns” about two sections of the WRDA bill. Mikulski said Section 8003 prevents the House or Senate from considering an Energy and Water Development appropriations bill unless the bill provides a minimum level of funding for harbor maintenance programs, and Section 8005 requires the energy and water bill to include no less than the amount provided in the previous year for Corps of Engineers civil works programs, except in limited circumstances.
Explaining further, Mikulski said the provisions in question “dictate funding levels for specific programs, without regard to 10-year enforceable budget caps and the potential impacts on other government activities.”
In addition, she said that Section 8003 “can bring down an entire Energy & Water Development appropriations bill without appeal and Section 8005 establishes a new supermajority point of order against an Energy & Water Development appropriations bill.”
“The provisions are an infringement on the jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee by dictating minimum funding levels for specific programs,” Mikulski said. “Authorizing committees are charged with establishing maximum amounts authorized to be appropriated.”
Referring to the Mikulski letter, Barry Holliday, chairman of the HMTF Fairness Coalition, said that Mikulski acknowledges that U.S. ports “are critical to our economy and America’s future competitiveness depends on adequately maintaining them,” but that her Appropriations Committee is not willing to work “within the $3 trillion federal budget and make this happen. We need to ask this Senate to make the hard choices and ensure our ports and harbors will be maintained.”
In a draft of a suggested letter to the Appropriations Committee, Holliday concluded that while a bill addressing “a range of water issues is not without some controversy, the United States should not miss opportunities to spur economic growth, improve our global competitiveness, and create jobs. We urge the Senate to move forward with consideration of a new WRDA bill.”
Seaway handles 4 percent more cargo in 2012
Administrators of the St. Lawrence Seaway report that the international waterway handled 39 million metric tons of cargo during the 2012 navigation season, up 4 percent over the year before. The seaway total includes 31 million tons handled by the Montreal-Lake Ontario Section, an increase of 9 percent over 2011.