Brownwater News, November 2019

House passes bill to boost HMFT expenditures

The House has passed legislation to expand expenditures from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), which supports the Army Corps of Engineers’ deep-draft operation and maintenance activities.

Aaron Ellis, director of public affairs for the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), said the bill (H.R. 2440) impacts the congressional budgeting process by increasing budget caps equal to the amount appropriated from the trust fund in any year. The net effect is to automatically “make room” in the budget for full harbor maintenance spending without squeezing other programs.

In so doing, the legislation removes the historic budgetary constraints that have suppressed HMTF spending in the past, Ellis said. The bill would enable Congress to appropriate $34 billion over the next decade to restore America’s federal navigation channels to their originally constructed widths and depths.

Chris Connor, AAPA president and CEO, said the legislation “will stop the diversion of HMTF payments and provide a means for Congress to spend down the more than $9 billion that has been diverted in previous years.”

The next action on the bill will be in the Senate, where the Environment and Public Works Committee is expected to release initial HMTF legislation this month as part of developing its Water Resources Development Act bill.

US announces $900 million in BUILD grants

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced on Nov. 12 that the Trump administration has made “a historic investment” of $900 million in surface transportation for the 2019 fiscal year. The funding will be available through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grants program.

Chao said program funds are allocated to repair, rebuild and revitalize “significant infrastructure projects across the country.” She said the Department of Transportation has awarded 50 percent of BUILD transport funding to projects in rural areas.

“For this round of BUILD grants, the maximum grant award is $25 million, and no more than $90 million can be awarded to a single state,” Chao said.

Among the 55 grants awarded in 35 states were $20 million for the Conley Terminal Container Storage and Freight Corridor, Boston; $15.4 million for the Inland Port Arizona Improvement Project, Florence, Ariz.; $20 million for the Lubec Safe Harbor project, Lubec, Maine; and $25 million for the Washington Bridge Rehabilitation and Redevelopment Project, Providence, R.I.

Senate cut in port infrastructure grants concerns AAPA

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) voiced concern after the Senate approved a fiscal 2020 appropriations bill that cuts funding by more than two-thirds for a Maritime Administration (MarAd) program that provides grants for port infrastructure projects nationwide.

“MarAd’s Port Infrastructure Development Program, initiated last year and funded at $292.73 million, would be slashed to $91.6 million if the Senate’s appropriation mark is upheld in the final bill,” said Chris Connor, AAPA president and CEO. “Not only would funding for the program be severely cut, the Senate bill requires deep-draft coastal ports and shallow-draft inland waterways ports share those funds, which wasn’t the case last year. AAPA advocates that the program be funded at a minimum of $300 million for deep-draft coastal ports.”

Maritime industry honors Chao with AOTOS award

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao received the Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) Award from the United Seamen’s Service on Nov. 1 in New York City.

The award, recognized as one of the most prestigious in the maritime industry, noted that one of Chao’s most impressive achievements has been to work with Congress “to finally obtain funding for the first new purpose-built training ships in nearly 50 years.” The first two national security multi-mission vessels (NSMVs), to be built in the United States for SUNY Maritime College and Massachusetts Maritime Academy, will replace a pair of ships with a combined age of 110 years.

Other transport efforts led by Chao include naming new Marine Highway Projects that were eligible to apply for $7 million in grants in 2019.

Nelson installed as AAPA board chairman

Gary Nelson, executive director of the Port of Grays Harbor in Aberdeen, Wash., has been installed as the 2019-20 chairman of the board of directors of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA). He was elected chairman in March by the board.

Nelson succeeds William Friedman, president and chief executive officer of the Port of Cleveland, who began his one-year term in October 2018.

Stephaich elected new chairman of WCI

Peter Stephaich, chairman and chief executive officer of the Campbell Transportation Co. of Houston, Pa., has been elected chairman of the board of directors of the Waterways Council Inc. (WCI), succeeding Tim Parker of the Parker Towing Co. of Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Other officers elected to terms ending in November 2020 include Mike Toohey, president and CEO of the WCI; Matt Ricketts of the Crounse Corp. of Paducah, Ky.; and Debra Calhoun, senior vice president of the WCI.

The officers were elected at the annual meeting of the council in Pittsburgh, Pa., in early November.

Army Corps to hold Civil Works webinars

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to hold webinars Dec. 5 and Dec. 19 to discuss current activities and recent accomplishments of its Revolutionize Civil Works initiative.

The initiative is looking at ways to get projects completed faster, use alternative funding approaches, and streamline permitting processes.

The webinars will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. (EST). To join by phone, dial (888) 273-3658. The access code is 8350039, the security code is 0039, and the webinar number is 966 035 055.

By Professional Mariner Staff