Lawmakers eye water resources ‘czar’ in White House

Lawmakers eye water resources ‘czar’ in White House
The Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) says that a House panel is working on legislation to set up a Cabinet-level water resources council in the White House. The council, headed by a water resources czar, would have broad jurisdiction over federal policies and programs, including new civil works project proposals and the operation of existing projects.
    WCI reports that there has been no hearing on the proposal, named the Sustainable Watershed Planning Act, but that a mark-up was scheduled in June with little notice and then canceled.

Mariners advised of dredging operations in St. Lawrence Seaway
The St. Lawrence Seaway has advised mariners that dredging operations at the International Tangent between U.S. Lighted Buoy 1 and U.S. Lighted Buoy 3, and in the Wiley-Dondero Canal between Eisenhower and Snell locks began Sept. 7 and will continue through Dec. 20.
    In addition, dredging work is being performed in the commercial channel of the South Shore, above Lock 2 and below Lock 3 on Lake Saint Louis. During the dredging operation, which will continue until Nov. 20, no two vessels going in opposite directions may pass the dredger site at the same time.
    Furthermore, ships in the area must proceed at reduced speed. Questions on the operation can be directed to the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation’s Operations Supervisor at (315) 764-3292, or Vessel Traffic Control at (315) 764-3290.

AWO hails opponents of lock usage tax
The American Waterways Operators (AWO) has commended two senators who have voiced their opposition to the administration’s proposal to fund the Inland Waterways Trust Fund through a lock usage tax.
    Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Christopher S. “Kit” Bond (R-Mo.) expressed their opposition in letters to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. The letter to the EPW committee was signed by 21 senators, and the letter to the Finance Committee was signed by 14 senators.
    Harkin and Bond said in their letters that the lock usage tax unfairly “discriminates against portions of the country that depend on large numbers of locks to move cargo, while giving a free pass to commercial vessels that operate in areas of the country without locks.”
    “The tugboat, towboat and barge industry is the most economical and environmentally friendly mode of cargo transportation and an important part of the nation’s intermodal transportation network, delivering the building blocks of America’s economy with the smallest carbon footprint of any surface transportation modes,” said AWO President and CEO Thomas A. Allegretti. “A lock usage tax that would hurt the barge industry is unwise and counterproductive to the administration’s economic and environmental policy goals.”

House panel endorses Coast Guard, Clean Hull bills
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee gave its approval Sept. 24 to the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 (H.R. 3619) and the Clean Hull Act of 2009 (H.R. 3618).
    The Coast Guard bill would authorize an appropriation of $6.8 billion for the Coast Guard in the fiscal year beginning next Oct. 1, including $2.3 billion for ports, waterways and coastal security; $1.2 billion for the Integrated Deepwater System Program, and $45 million for shore facilities and aids to navigation.
    Among other things, the bill authorizes $153 million for the design and construction of a new replacement icebreaker for the Great Lakes.
    Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the committee, said that the Coast Guard bill requires the Coast Guard to conduct comprehensive testing and evaluation of all major assets, and directs the Coast Guard to develop independent cost estimates for the service’s largest acquisitions.
    Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Subcommittee, said that H.R. 3619 creates an ombudsman in each Coast Guard district to serve as a liaison between the Coast Guard and the port community, and establishes a minority recruiting program for prospective Coast Guard Academy cadets and alters the academy’s admission process to include a nomination procedure that is similar to the other service academies.
    As for the Clean Hull Act, Cummings said that legislation will give the Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to ban foreign-flag ships from entering the United States if they have their hulls covered with paint containing Tributyltin (TBT), which was banned in the United States by the EPA in 2000.

House/Senate panel weighs Corps spending bill
A spending bill that includes $5.5 billion for the fiscal year 2010 civil works program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, passed by House and Senate back in July, finally made its way to a House-Senate conference committee at the end of September.
    The legislation, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 (H.R. 3183), includes $2.12 billion for construction, $2.5 billion for operations and maintenance, $142 million for investigations, and $190 million for the Corps’ regulatory program. The Senate bill (S. 1436) allows $1.9 billion for construction, $2.45 billion for operations and maintenance, and $170 million for investigations.
    The House bill, ignoring the administration’s lockage-fee request, rejected the White House proposal. It stated that no money appropriated under the bill will be used to award any continuing contract that commits additional money from the Trust Fund, unless or until such time that a long-term mechanism to enhance revenue in the fund sufficient to meet the cost-sharing authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 is enacted.

Coast Guard sets meetings on oil spill response plans
The U.S. Coast Guard has three meetings scheduled to receive comments on a proposal to require owners or operators of nontank vessels to prepare and submit oil spill response plans.
    The meetings will be held Oct. 28 in Washington D.C.; Nov. 3 in Oakland, Calif., and Nov. 19 in New Orleans.
    The Coast Guard noted that the Federal Water Pollution Control Act defines nontank vessels as self-propelled vessels of 400 gross tons or greater that operate on the navigable waters of the United States, carry oil of any kind as fuel for main propulsion and are not tankers.
    Among other things, the proposal would specify the content of a response plan and would require a plan for responding to a worst case discharge and a substantial threat of such a discharge. The proposed rule also would require vessel owners and operators to submit their vessel response plan control number as part of already required notice of arrival information.
    Nov. 30 is the deadline for comments that may be submitted to Docket Management Facility (M-30), Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE, Washington, D.C. 20590-0001.
    For more information contact Lt. Jarrod DeWitz at (202) 372-1219.
Court decision in tank barge oil spill case applauded by AWO
The American Waterways Operators hailed a recommendation by U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo Sorokin that the U.S. District Court, Massachusetts District, issue a summary judgment against a 2004 Massachusetts oil spill statute.
    “This decision is a welcome result for the federal government and our industry, a victory for interstate commerce and further evidence of the serious constitutional defects in the content of the Massachusetts statute,” said AWO President and CEO Thomas Allegretti.
    The Department of Justice had challenged the constitutionality of the statute, which was enacted in response to a 2003 tank barge oil spill in Buzzards Bay. The government’s lawsuit asserted that the oil spill statute tried to make law in areas that are reserved exclusively to the federal government, specifically the U.S. Coast Guard.
    In 2006, the District Court affirmed the position of the federal government that Massachusetts overstepped its bounds in passing the 2004 law regulating the crewing and operation of towing vessels and tank barges in Buzzards Bay, and terminated the case. Subsequently, appeals were filed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Coalition for Buzzards Bay. On appeal, Sorokin reaffirmed Justice’s assertions and other navigation safety issues governed by Coast Guard regulations, and recommended summary judgment.
    While the parties were given until Sept. 25 to file objections, there is no time limit for District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock, who was added to the court last August, to either accept or reject the recommendation made by Sorokin in July 2009.
    A spokesman for Woodlock said the judge can accept or reject the recommendation without a hearing, or, if he deems necessary, schedule a hearing on the objections to the recommendation.

    The spokesman emphasized that while the judge may not be constrained by a deadline, he “won’t sit on it (the recommendation) forever.”
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, before 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.


By Professional Mariner Staff