Key senators see need for new waterways infrastructure law
Indicating that the 112th Congress intends to proceed with a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Oct. 18 that the nation's flood control systems "require continued investment and improvement."
"That is why we must move forward with a Water Resources Development Act that will allow important projects in California and elsewhere in the country to proceed," Boxer said. "We are working on a path forward on this important bill."
Echoing the California senator's call for a new WRDA, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the committee, said he agreed with Boxer that a WRDA bill "is a priority. It would be an appropriate vehicle for any potential flood-related policy provisions."
Inhofe acknowledged that Oklahoma did not experience the same flooding as other states but that the Mississippi River flood caused navigation on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System to be "delayed and practically shutdown as barges could not reach the Port of Catoosa."
House eyes nationwide vessel ballast water treatment standard
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved the Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2011, which would set a single nationwide standard for the treatment of vessel ballast water. The bill, H.R. 2840, requires the U.S. Coast Guard to set an implementation schedule requiring vessel owners to install treatment technology certified to meet the nationwide standard.
"The current system threatens international maritime trade," said Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee. "It is driving industry away from short sea shipping. It is undermining our attempts to revitalize the U.S.-flagged fleet. It is destroying jobs. And it is hurting our economic recovery."
LoBiondo explained that currently the Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have separate regulations governing the discharge of ballast water. LoBiondo said the EPA's regulations "are especially burdensome, as they allow each individual state to impose additional requirements on top of the federal regulations."
Meanwhile, it was reported by industry watchers that beginning in August 2013, New York plans to implement tough new ballast water treatment standards for all ships crossing the St. Lawrence River and transiting through the state's waters.
Friedman offers solutions to dredging, funding problems
William D. Friedman, president and CEO of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, urged Congress to reform federal regulations and policies to allow the Great Lakes "to play its intended role as a critical gateway for U.S. exports and trade."
Testifying at a hearing by the House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee on Oct. 26, Friedman encouraged passage of the Short Sea Shipping Act of 2011 (H.R. 1533) "to put waterborne transport on an even playing field with land modes."
Commenting on dredging and the Army Corps of Engineers' project delivery system, Friedman said that Cleveland authorities are prepared to put dredged sediment to beneficial use rather than dispose of it in landfills, but that Corps rules and practices "make this an extraordinarily difficult and years-long process."
To correct that problem, Friedman would have Congress "take up a comprehensive reform of WRDA and other relevant laws to usher in 21st Century management of water resources." For one thing, he said, Congress should enact the Realize America's Maritime Promise Act (H.R. 104), which would require all deposits in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to be spent on harbor maintenance.
Friedman also urged lawmakers to rewrite laws to allow multi-year reauthorizations to provide for predictable funding for dredging, and to allow non-federal sponsors to directly manage dredging and other navigation projects without waiting for project delivery by the Corps.
Work on new lock at Kentucky Dam continues
The Tennessee River Valley Association reports that construction of a new 1,200-foot navigation lock at the Kentucky Dam on the Tennessee River is continuing even though the work faces possible suspension.
Project manager Don Getty told the association that his "best guess" is that construction will continue through the second half of Fiscal Year 2013 before available funds are exhausted. "Under the worst case scenario with no more funds, the project will be mothballed at that point," Getty added.
Annual tonnage passing through the existing lock, the gateway for the 12 locks located upstream on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, ranged from 27 to 37 million tons in recent years. Excavation for the new lock began last year with the help of $82 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
Bill would delete fish protections from water control guidelines
Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) has introduced a bill to revise certain authorized purposes of the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System Master Water Control Manual.
The bill (H.R. 2993) would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to delete fish and wildlife as an authorized purpose of the Corps and to elevate flood control as the highest priority of authorized purposes of the Corps at all times, not just during significant runoff events.
Two old locks on Monongahela River face emergency rehab
Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) reports that two of the three Lower Monongahela River projects, Lock and Dams 2-4, face serious structural problems. L&D 3, built in 1907 and Lock 4, built in 1937, may require emergency rehabilitation, WCI said.
"Replacement of the outmoded facilities with two modern structures won't be finished until at least 2019, leaving the Monongahela 'coal corridor' in danger of a lock failure in the meantime," WCI said.
FMC looks into diversion of cargo to Canadian, Mexican ports
The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has opened an inquiry into the diversion of U.S.-bound cargo to Canadian and Mexican ports.
The inquiry was opened in response to written requests from senators and a bipartisan group of eight representatives from Washington and California. The commission said that the inquiry will seek public comment and information that may help the FMC determine whether the Harbor Maintenance Tax and other factors may be diverting cargo from U.S. ports.
"Canadian and Mexican ports are free to compete with U.S. ports for U.S. cargo," FMC Chairman Richard A. Lidinsky Jr. said. "But they should do so on a playing field that is not artificially tilted by governments' policies. So the primary question is: are we handicapping our own ports in international competition?"
Gerald Keddy, parliamentary secretary to Ed Fast, Canada's Minister of International Trade, said his government would "vigorously defend against and refute any allegations that actions on the part of Canadian ports or businesses are in any way inappropriate."
WCI, NWC elect new chairmen
Sykes Sturdivant, president of the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Board, in Clarksdale, Miss., has been elected chairman of the National Waterways Conference for the 2011-2012 year.
Also elected vice chairman at the recent annual meeting of the conference in Fort Worth, Texas, was Jim Oliver, general manager of the Tarrant Regional Water District, Fort Worth. Amy Larson was re-elected president of the conference.
At the annual meeting of Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) on Oct. 19 in Pittsburgh, Penn., directors elected Matt Woodruff, director of government affairs, Kirby Corp., to succeed WCI Chairman Rick Calhoun, president of Cargo Carriers and immediate past chairman of WCI.
Elected vice chairman was Steve Little, president of Crounse Corp. Dan Mecklenborg, senior vice president and chief legal officer of Ingram Barge Co., was elected general counsel of WCI.