Brownwater News, November 2015

Court blocks implementation of WOTUS rule

On Oct. 9, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked implementation of the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule released earlier this year by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

On May 12, the House passed H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, which requires the EPA to withdraw the WOTUS rule, which would broaden the federal government’s power to regulate waters and adjacent lands.

The bill requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA to start over and develop a new rule in consultation with state and local governments and other stakeholders who will be affected by the rule.

The majority in the 2-1 court decision said that among its concerns was “the burden — potentially visited nationwide on governmental bodies, state and federal, as well as private parties — and the impact on the public in general, implicated by the rule’s effective redrawing of jurisdictional lines over certain of the nation’s waters.” The court said it appreciates the respondent agencies’ attempt to “promulgate new standards to protect water quality that conform to the Supreme Court’s guidance. Yet, the sheer breadth of the ripple effects caused by the rule’s definitional changes counsels strongly in favor of maintaining the status quo for the time being.”

In a separate dissent, Judge Damon Keith wrote “we lack jurisdiction to grant a stay.” Keith said one of the issues in the case is “whether this court has exclusive jurisdiction to review the rule in the first instance. We can enjoin implementation of the rule if we determine that we have jurisdiction. But until that question is answered, our subject-matter jurisdiction is in doubt, and I do not believe we should stay implementation of the Clean Water Rule.”

Highway program extended through Nov. 20

Congress has approved a bill, signed by President Obama, calling for the extension of the nation’s highway program through Nov. 20. Highway spending had been due to expire Oct. 29.

During the three-week extension, spending for federal aid highway and highway safety construction programs is limited to $5.6 billion.

Meanwhile, the House is working on a six-year $325 billion transportation bill. The House Ways and Means Committee was tasked with finding the funding for the first three years of the legislation, with the hope that money would be found later to fund the last three years.

DOT releases draft National Freight Strategic Plan

The American Association of Port Authorities applauded Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Oct. 19 for releasing the draft National Freight Strategic Plan, which the AAPA said “emphasizes the importance of a dedicated freight program that would improve the movement of freight and meet economic demands.”

The plan includes a draft Multimodal Freight Network map to inform planners, private-sector stakeholders and the public about where major freight flows occur and where special attention to freight issues may be most warranted.

Foxx announced the release of the plan at an event in Seattle, where the secretary also called for a greater focus on the future of U.S. freight movement.

Corps proposes new lock hours in Arkansas

The Army Corps of Engineers has proposed that the hours of availability at the Jonesville and Columbia locks on the Ouachita and Black rivers in Arkansas be increased from the current schedule of 20 hours per day to 24 hours per day. The Corps also proposed that the hours of availability at the Felsenthal and H.K. Thatcher locks be reduced from the current schedule of 16 hours per day to 10 hours.

The reduced levels of service at Felsenthal and Thatcher are in response to the Inland Marine Transportation System Guidelines for Establishing and Implementing Levels of Operating Service, which set forth criteria for determining hours of availability based on lock usage data.

The Corps said the intent is to provide lock availability that matches existing lock usage by commercial industry. The proposed implementation date was Nov. 15.

For more information, contact Thomas Hengst at (601) 631-5600.

AAPA sets eight maritime industry programs for 2016

The American Association of Port Authorities has scheduled eight maritime industry programs for 2016, including the Shifting International Trade Routes Forum in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 21-22.

Two other programs among the eight will be the association’s Spring Conference in Washington, D.C., on April 5-6, and the AAPA’s Annual Convention and Exposition on Oct. 23-27 in New Orleans.

Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the AAPA, said two new programs for 2016 will address timely topics relevant to seaports of all sizes and types. Nagle said the AAPA’s Infrastructure Development and Financing Seminar on March 9-10 in San Diego will help ports overcome the challenges they face when undertaking facility enhancement or renovation projects. The other new program, the Cargo Optimization Seminar, to be offered in Jersey City, N.J., on June 7-8, will feature a dual-track presentation segmented by cargo type. One track, Terminal Productivity and Congestion, will focus on increasing the speed that containers move through a port. The other track, Community Relations and Port Diversification, will focus on obtaining broad community acceptance and approval for a port’s operations.

Coast Guard using new mariner credentialing forms

The U.S. Coast Guard has begun using the new CG-719 series of mariner credentialing forms (B, C, K, K/E, P and S) that will replace the forms displaying a June 30, 2012, expiration date.

The new forms may be obtained electronically in PDF format on the National Maritime Center (NMC) website, Except for forms K and K/E, the Coast Guard will no longer accept outdated CG-719 forms after April 1, 2016. Physicians signing K and K/E forms after Dec. 31, 2015, must use the new version.

For more information about the forms, call (888) 427-5662.

Waterways users board to meet Dec. 2 in Missouri

The Department of the Army has announced that the Dec. 2 meeting of the Inland Waterways Users Board will be held at the Embassy Suites St. Louis-St. Charles in Missouri.

On Dec. 1, members will tour Lock and Dam 25 on the Mississippi River and LaGrange Lock and Dam on the Illinois Waterway.

The proposed agenda includes the status of funding for inland navigation projects and studies; the status of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund; the status of the Olmsted Locks and Dam Project; the Locks and Dams 2, 3 and 4 Monongahela River Project; efficient funding for Inland Waterways Trust Fund projects; and the status of the Inland Marine Transportation System Capital Investment Strategy.

For more information, contact Mark R. Pointon at (703) 428-6438.

2015 TIGER program to distribute $500 million

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced that the Department of Transportation will provide $500 million for 39 projects selected from 627 eligible applications in the FY 2015 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program.

This TIGER round, the seventh since 2009, brings the total grant amount to $4.6 billion provided to 381 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and includes 134 projects to support rural and tribal communities, Foxx said. Projects funded through the new round of grants support several key transportation goals: $69 million to connect communities to opportunities, $49 million to improve safety and $41 to support innovation.

The American Association of Port Authorities noted that of the 627 applications submitted for TIGER grant consideration, 50 were from ports. Of the 50, AAPA said, five awards totaling $44.3 million are going to commercial seaports or to projects that directly aid the efficient movement of goods to and from America’s ports.

Eight nations establish Arctic Coast Guard Forum

Leaders representing the coast guard agencies of the eight Arctic nations signed a joint statement on Oct. 30 officially establishing the Arctic Coast Guard Forum (ACGF).

The ACGF is an operationally focused, consensus-based organization with the purpose of leveraging collective resources to foster safe, secure and environmentally responsible maritime activity in the Arctic. Membership consists of the United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Russian Federation.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the statement “underscores our commitment to cooperating with our international partners as we navigate this challenging and changing region.”

NTSB launches study of VTS systems

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is conducting a study to assess the effectiveness of Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) systems operated by the Coast Guard.

The American Waterways Operators said the board wants feedback to better understand how VTS impacts the safety of AWO members’ operations. The NTSB also wants recommendations for improving the effectiveness of VTS in the AWO members’ areas. Comments and recommendations should be submitted to the board by Dec. 1.

For more information, contact Caitlyn Stewart, AWO senior manager of regulatory affairs, at (703) 841-9300, Ext. 262. 

By Professional Mariner Staff