Obamaâ€™s transport plan scored for absence of waterway funds
Responding to President Obamaâ€™s announcement that he would ask Congress for a $50 billion long-term spending plan for roads, railways and runways, Cornel Martin, president and CEO of Waterways Council Inc. said the waterways transportation industry was â€œdisappointed and puzzledâ€ by the absence of waterway or port projects in the presidentâ€™s plan.
â€œOur inland waterways not only support people who work on our rivers, but workers in our agricultural community and the many industries who rely on our waterways for affordable transportation of their goods, both domestically and for world markets,â€ Martin said. â€œTo not include and dismiss our nationâ€™s most environmentally sound, energy efficient and congestion-relieving mode of transportation, when its lock and dam infrastructure consistently earns a â€˜Dâ€™ grade, is unreasonable and unacceptable.â€
On Capitol Hill, Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), noting that Obamaâ€™s transportation infrastructure proposal focused on highways, railroads and air transport, urged the president to include funding for the modernization and maintenance of the inland navigation system.
In a letter to the president, Costello highlighted the economic benefits of waterway transportation, saying that inland rivers move â€œhundreds of millions of tons of domestic commerce valued at $325 billion annually.â€
Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, also struck at the administrationâ€™s $50 billion infrastructure spending plan.
â€œUnfortunately this last minute report is a pitiful and tardy political excuse for the administration having killed last year any chance for a long-term transportation measure. Even more astounding is their regurgitation and attempted justification of a $50 billion spending proposal while more than 60 percent of the stimulus infrastructure dollars remain unspent.â€
The presidentâ€™s proposal, unveiled on Labor Day in Milwaukee, calls for an â€œinfrastructure bankâ€ that would provide loans and grants for transportation projects. In Milwaukee, the president outlined a proposal to invest in rebuilding 150,000 miles of roads, maintaining 4,000 miles of rail line and rehabilitating 150 miles of airport runway. The proposal was offered as Congress struggles to find ways to pay for a new six-year transportation bill thatâ€™s expected to remain on the back burner until next year.
Americaâ€™s Marine Highway Program awarded $7 million in grants
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced $7 million in grants to support the transportation of waterborne cargo between U.S. ports. The announcement Sept. 21 came just five weeks after LaHood selected eight projects and six initiatives along corridors that will be eligible for federal assistance under Americaâ€™s Marine Highway Program.
LaHood said the money will help expand an existing marine highway operation in the Gulf of Mexico between Texas and Florida and one on the East Coast between Richmond and Hampton Roads in Virginia.
The money also will help start an entirely new all-water service on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway between the Port of Itawamba, Miss., and the Port of Mobile in Alabama.
The Cross Gulf Container Expansion Project between Brownsville, Texas, and Manatee, Fla., was awarded $3.34 million to help modify two barges and purchase equipment that is expected to result in savings of 2.7 million gallons of diesel fuel each year.
The James River Container Expansion Project in Virginia was awarded $1.1 million for the purchase of two barges that LaHood said will help remove gridlock from some of the 130,000 trucks traveling between the Hampton Roads container terminals and rail terminals. At the same time, the frequency of the existing container-on-barge service between Hampton Roads and Richmond will increase to three sailings a week, up from the current once-a-week service. In addition, a new inter-terminal barge shuttle between terminals in Hampton Roads will be started.
The third grant, $1.76 million, was awarded to help purchase and modify nine barges for a new container transportation service on an all-water route between Itawamba on the Tennessee-Tombigbee and the Port of Mobile.
LaHood said that an additional $800,000 will be used to help further a study of potential marine highway concepts around the country.
Elaborating, the secretary explained that $275,000 will be for a West Coast hub-feeder concept that proposes services between Southern California and the Pacific Northwest, and the Golden Gate Marine Highway Initiative that proposes services along the California coast linking 13 ports between Crescent City and San Diego.
Another marine concept, the Illinois-Gulf Marine Highway Initiative, was awarded $275,000. It proposes container-on-barge service between Peoria, Ill., and Gulf Coast seaports.
A total of $250,000 will be used for the East Coast Marine Highway Initiative and New Jersey Marine Highway Platform. The East Coast initiative proposes to begin a coastal marine service paralleling Interstate 95 and serving areas including Port Canaveral, Fla.; Baltimore; and New Bedford, Mass. The New Jersey platform proposes expansion of water transportation to help move the significant volumes of freight within New Jersey and along interstate routes between ports along the Eastern Seaboard.
LaHood said the projects demonstrate how water transportation â€œcan help solve some of our toughest transportation challenges. Transporting goods by water will let us reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.â€
Maritime Administrator David T. Matsuda called the grants â€œa key opportunity to demonstrate the benefits and viability of moving freight on the water. These grants will help a long overlooked means of transporting goods finally grow.â€
Waterways industry urged to push Capital Development Plan
Cornel Martin, president and CEO of Waterways Council Inc., believes that the top legislative priority of the inland waterways industry right now is to urge Congress to adopt the Capital Development Plan developed by the Inland Marine Transportation System Investment Strategy Team. Martin said the plan would prioritize navigation projects across the entire inland waterway system, improve the Army Corps of Engineersâ€™ project management and processes to deliver projects on time and on budget, and recommend a funding mechanism that is affordable and meets the systemâ€™s needs.
Writing in the E-Newsletter of Americaâ€™s Marine Highways, Martin said that affirmation of that priority could be inserted in a 2010 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA-2010).
â€œIf we fail to maintain and modernize our inland waterways, our marine highways will never serve our economy to their full potential,â€ Martin said. â€œDredging our rivers and repairing and upgrading our locks is as important to our marine highways as filling potholes and maintaining and building new bridges is to our concrete and asphalt highways.â€
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committeeâ€™s report accompanying WRDA-2010, which was approved by the committee last July, includes the committeeâ€™s support for utilizing receipts from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to address the nationâ€™s backlog of harbor maintenance projects and dredging needs. The bill also would require additional cost estimates for recommended projects.
GOP identifies $250 billion in possible savings to taxpayers
Republican leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have released a new report that they said â€œidentifies a quarter of a trillion dollars in potential savings to the taxpayerâ€ through improved management of federal assets and the elimination of waste in agencies and programs.
Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), ranking member of the committee, said the report examines opportunities for saving taxpayer dollars in several major areas, including the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Mica said the report, entitled â€œSitting on Our Assets,â€ lists a number of areas that could stand attention, such as financing of infrastructure projects, the project approval process for infrastructure projects, a streamlined review of Corps of Engineers civil works projects and the future of a Coast Guard icebreaker fleet.
Obama nominates Cordero, renominates Dye to FMC
The Senate has received the nomination of Mario Cordero and renomination of Rebecca F. Dye to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC).
Cordero, an attorney in private practice, is currently serving his second term on the Long Beach (Calif.) Board of Harbor Commissioners, where he has spearheaded the portâ€™s pioneering Green Port Policy.
During his first term, Cordero served as vice president and president of the board. Cordero also is a part-time professor of political science at Long Beach City College. He also has served as vice chairman of the Long Beach Ethics Review Task Force.
Dye was originally confirmed as an FMC commissioner on Nov. 14, 2002, and reconfirmed on July 22, 2005. She began her federal career as a commissioned officer and attorney in the U.S. Coast Guard. Dye also has served as an attorney with the Maritime Administration, as minority counsel to the former House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries and as counsel to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Congress authorizes $10 billion for U.S. Coast Guard
Before recessing Sept. 29 until after the Nov. 2 general elections, Congress gave final approval to a bill authorizing appropriations totaling $10.2 billion for the U.S. Coast Guard in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.
For the operation and maintenance of the Coast Guard, Congress authorized $7 billion, including; $2.3 billion to pay for ports, waterways and coastal security; $1.1 billion for search and rescue programs; and $802 million for marine safety programs.
Congress also authorized $1.6 billion for the acquisition, construction, rebuilding and improvement of aids to navigation, shore and offshore facilities, vessels and aircraft, including $1.2 billion for the Integrated Deepwater System Program, and $45 million for shore facilities and aids to navigation.
Among other things, the bill (H.R. 3619) prohibits the use of a â€œlead systems integratorâ€ â€” the mechanism by which private contractors working on the Coast Guardâ€™s Deepwater program were essentially allowed to manage themselves and approve their own work.
In other business, Congress approved a so-called continuing resolution to temporarily fund the federal agencies for the new fiscal year. The $219 billion funding measure is about $8.2 billion below the spending allowed during the just-completed fiscal year. Funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineersâ€™ civil works program is at the FY 2010 level.
Also on Capitol Hill, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is planning a hearing entitled â€œWater Resources Development Act of 2010: Legislative and Policy Proposals to Benefit the Economy, Create Jobs, Protect Public Safety and Maintain Americaâ€™s Water Resources Infrastructure.â€ The hearing is set for Nov. 17.
House notes 50th anniversary of National Waterways Conference
A resolution recognizing the contributions of the National Waterways Conference on the occasion of its 50th anniversary was approved by the House Sept. 28. The resolution noted that the House â€œrecognizes the contributions of the National Waterways Conference in the formulation of the nationâ€™s water resources-related policies and programs for the Army Corps of Engineersâ€™ civil works mission and its advocacy for continued and increased investment in meeting the water resource needs of the nation.â€
The resolution, H.Res. 1639, was introduced by Rep. Phil Hare (D-Ill.) and four colleagues.
Mississippi River Commissioner renominated to fourth term
On the first day back from its summer recess, the Senate reported that it had received the nomination of Sam Epstein Angel to his fourth consecutive nine-year term on the Mississippi River Commission.
Angel, president of Epstein Land Co. and Epstein Gin Co., of Lake Village, Ark., was first appointed to the commission in 1979.
Angel also is director and former president of the Dumas Cotton Warehouse, in Dumas, Ark.; commissioner of the Chicot County Watershed District, and former commissioner of the Chicot County Rural Development Authority and Southeast Arkansas Levee District.
Army Engineers recognized for â€˜unsurpassed excellenceâ€™
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Armyâ€™s chief of staff, thanked the Army Corps of Engineers for â€œanother year of unsurpassed excellence, for your distinguished service, and for your continued support of our Army and our nation. Essayons.â€
Noting the Corpsâ€™ work on base realignment and closure, and in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, Casey said in a letter to the Corps that its work is â€œnothing short of magnificent.â€
Casey told the Corps that the U.S. Army and the nation â€œare fortunate to have your service. You are an elite and dedicated team. Thank you for all you do every day. I could not be more proud to be a soldier, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our magnificent engineers, families, civilian, veterans and retirees.â€
About the Author:
Carlo Salzano has been in journalism since graduating from La Salle University in 1948 as a chemistry major. That’s right, chemistry. He began his career as a copy boy at the Philadelphia Inquirer, before moving on to United Press International in Philadelphia, Charleston, West Virgina, Baltimore and Washington. After 14 years, Carlo joined Traffic World magazine and stayed on for 23 years, retiring as editor in 1990. A majority of Carlo’s time at Traffic World was spent covering the maritime community and he continued on in the maritime field while freelancing throughout his “retirement.” He is married and has three children and eight grandchildren.