BrownWater News September 2011

Three-year Coast Guard funding bill introduced

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, has introduced a bill that would authorize appropriations for the U.S. Coast Guard for fiscal years 2012 through 2014.

For the three fiscal years, the bill (H.R. 2838) would authorize $6.8 billion, $6.9 billion and $7 billion, respectively, for operation and maintenance; $1.5 billion for the acquisition, construction, rebuilding and improvement of aids to navigation, shore and offshore facilities, vessels and aircraft; $137 million to $139 million for the Coast Guard Reserve program; $16.7 million for environmental compliance and restoration of Coast Guard vessels, aircraft and facilities, and $20 million for research and development.

At a recent hearing, LoBiondo said hearings on the appropriations bill would include a review of the Coast Guard’s spending of more than $3 billion to build National Security Cutters over the last decade, noting that “the GAO (Government Accountability Office) recently found that they provide little additional capability over the 40-year-old vessels they are replacing.â€

Bill limits EPA ability to veto dredge permits

The House has passed and sent to the Senate a bill that places limits on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to veto dredge and fill permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The bill (H.R. 2018) also gives states more flexibility to administer permitting programs.

Furthermore, the bill restricts the EPA’s ability to veto a Corps 404 permitting decision unless the state concurs with the veto, and allows a state to assume and administer only parts of the 404 permit program. Under current law, states are required to assume the entire program or none of it.

Merchant marine personnel panel to meet in October

The Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee and its working groups have scheduled meetings for October at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, 2100 Second St., S.W., Washington, D.C. The working groups will meet Oct. 6 and the committee on Oct. 7. The committee also met Sept. 8-9 at Coast Guard Headquarters to allow a working group to discuss Task Statement 75, entitled “Review of the Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Concerning the Implementation of the Amendment to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, and Changes to Domestic Endorsements.â€

A detailed agenda for each meeting is posted in the Aug. 16 Federal Register. For more information on both meetings, contact Mark Gould at (206) 728-1368.

Florida lock scheduled for manatee protection device

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Jacksonville, Fla., District has advised navigation interests that the Moore Haven Lock on the west side of Lake Okeechobee at the junction with the Caloosahatchee River in south Florida will be closed Sept. 18 through Nov. 14 while a contractor installs a manatee protection systems designed to protect the West Indian manatee.

The system detects the manatee and prevents the gates from closing and harming the protected animal. The system uses an acoustic array that sends signals between sensors. If the signals of the sensors are interrupted by a manatee, the lock gates automatically stop. After a program delay to allow the obstruction to clear, the gates attempt to close again. If the obstruction is clear, the gates fully close. If not, the gates will stop again.

USCG to revise reporting of recreational boating accidents

The U.S. Coast Guard has invited the public to comment on recommendations by the National Boating Safety Advisory Council on ways to improve the recreational boating accident reporting process.

The council recommended that the Coast Guard use a two-tier reporting system for boating accidents and take steps to clarify what, how and when information is reported. The two-tier notification/reporting system would have the boat operator provide a notification to the state (via local law enforcement, first responder, etc.) and the state reporting authority ensure that a follow-up investigation is conducted. The Coast Guard said that system would ease the reporting burden on the owner or operator of vessels and would place more responsibilities on state reporting authorities.

Details of the council’s recommendations are in the Federal Register of Sept. 6.

Comments should reach the Docket Management Facility by Dec. 5. The mailing address is Docket Management Facility (M-30), Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave., S.E., Washington, D.C. 20590-0001.

For more information, contact Jeff Ludwig at (202) 372-1061.

Maritime panel to meet in September

The Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health and its work groups will hold their next meetings at the Eastland Park Hotel, in Portland, Maine. The work groups will meet Sept. 20 and the committee on Sept. 21.

The tentative agenda includes discussions on person-in-water; cargo-handling equipment; confined space ventilation; selection of welding-shade protection; safe entry and cleaning practices in vessel sewage tanks; best practices for eye injury reduction; toxic materials, and injury and illness prevention programs.

For more information, contact Frank Meilinger at (202) 693-1999.

Landrieu scores ‘rash of waivers’ for hauling oil

In a recent letter to President Obama, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) criticized the administration’s issuance of Jones Act waivers allowing foreign vessels to transport crude oil within the United States during the ongoing Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) drawdown.

The letter urges the use of domestic vessels and seafarers, as required by the Jones Act, in order to create jobs and improve the U.S. economy.

“We strongly urge the administration to end the practice of waiving the Jones Act for SPR oil distribution and handing American jobs to foreign shipping companies,†Landrieu said. “The rash of recent waivers, exacerbated by a lack of transparency in the decision-making process, represents a stain on the Administration’s determined effort to create jobs and improve the economy here at home, and it should therefore be rectified immediately.â€

Landrieu said that since Obama’s decision in June to release oil from the SPR, the administration has waived the Jones Act 46 times, even though U.S. vessels are ready and available to transport the oil.

Jones Act forum set for Baltimore in October

The Maritime Executive will host a national Jones Act forum, “Rebuilding America and Creating Jobs,†Oct. 12-13 in Baltimore.

The magazine said that the forum will be the beginning of a “national campaign to jump-start the American economy that will continue throughout 2012 and right up to Election Day in November.â€

“America’s marine highways have been underutilized for decades due to failed federal policies and inadequate funding mechanisms,†the magazine said. “Today, while the infrastructure is in place, U.S. vessel operators, shipbuilders, training institutions and port authorities have been overlooked as vital assets in the U.S. economic recovery plan.â€

DOT awards $9.98 million in grants to 13 small shipyards

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced nearly $10 million in grants to 13 small shipyards to help modernize facilities, increase productivity and help make the country’s small shipyards more competitive in the global marketplace.

The largest single grant, $1.2 million, was awarded to C&C Marine Maintenance, Congo Shipyard, in Newell, W.Va.

LaHood said the Maritime Administration received more than 118 grant applications requesting $105 million in assistance.

By Professional Mariner Staff