Senate Passes Bill to Fund Waterway Projects

October, 2007

About the Author

Carlo Salzano has been in journalism ever since graduating from La Salle University in 1948 as a chemistry major. That’s right, chemistry. He started as a copy boy at the Philadelphia Inquirer, moved on to United Press International in Philly, Charleston, WV, Baltimore and Washington. After 14 years, he joined Traffic World magazine and stayed on for 23 years, ending as editor, before retiring in 1990. Most of Carlo’s time with Traffic World was spent covering the maritime community and he continued in that field while freelancing throughout his “retirement.” Carlo is married and has three children and eight grandchildren. RENT ISSUE             AMERICAN SHIP REVIEW        AMERICAN  TUGBOAT

Senate Passes Bill to Fund Waterway Projects
by Carlo Salzano

With its fingers crossed and an eye on the White House, the maritime industry celebrated what it considered to be a major victory after the Senate gave final approval Sept. 24 to the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA).

By a vote of 81-12, the Senate sent the measure (H.R. 1495) to an uncertain fate in the White House, from where President Bush had sent word three weeks earlier to the House that he would veto the $20 billion measure “because the conference version of H.R. 1495 significantly exceeds the cost of either the House or Senate bill and contains other unacceptable provisions.” But the House was unmoved, approving the bill’s conference report 381 to 40.

The veto threat did little to dampen the elation emanating from the inland waterways community, which believed that there were more than enough votes in Congress to override any White House objection.

“Tonight’s Senate action to approve the WRDA conference report is a great victory for this nation’s commitment to remaining economically competitive now and into the future,” said R. Barry Palmer, president of Waterways Council Inc. “Without a modern, efficient system of locks and dams on our nation’s inland waterways, the transport of critical commodities such as grain for export, coal for electric power generation, petroleum and chemical products for pharmaceuticals, and aggregates for building materials simply cannot reach consumers in the United States and around the globe in the most cost-effective way possible.”

Both Palmer and Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, urged the president to sign the legislation into law.
Connie Waterman, director of internal operations for the National Waterways Conference, said only that the Senate “took a significant step forward in improving our nation’s water resource needs. WRDA 2007 meets many of the most critical water resource needs facing our nation.”
Nagle said the “long overdue legislation addresses a seven-year backlog of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers programs, including navigation projects, policies and procedures that are necessary to keep pace with today’s burgeoning trade. America’s ports depend upon a regular, biennial cycle of new project authorizations to improve federal navigation channels to accommodate the modern world fleet of deep-draft ships, but it’s been seven years since the last WRDA bill was approved.”

James R. McCarville, executive director of the Port of Pittsburgh Commission, was pleased that the bill authorizes $3.1 million for a pilot program at the Port of Pittsburgh to implement new technologies to facilitate communications between towboats and lock facilities. A pilot project that could be expanded under the bill’s authority, McCarville said, is the “virtual navigation system, called SmartLock that would aid towboats as they approach lock chambers in low visibility.” Another is River-Net that could aid electronic communications between the locks and towboats to exchange data about river currents and commodities carried.

Issuing his veto threat through the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bush said Congress produced legislation that authorizes “excessive spending and new projects” while the Corps already has “an enormous backlog of ongoing projects that will require future appropriations of more than $38 billion to complete.”

The bill passed by Congress would authorize about $11 billion worth of projects reported by the Chief of Engineers, including nine for navigation; 400 new projects for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including projects for navigation, flood control, environmental restoration, recreation and environmental infrastructure; and the restoration of the Florida Everglades and the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway System, along with the construction of seven new 1,200-foot locks on the system.

WRDA also directs the Corps to undertake an independent peer review of any project estimated to cost more than $45 million, or when a governor of an affected state requests it, or if the Chief of Engineers determines that the project will be controversial.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) noted the bill would increase from 40 to 65 percent the federal share of the construction of some deepwater navigation projects. It would also increase from 50 to 100 percent the federal share of maintenance and operations costs of such projects. That provision, the CBO estimated, would increase federal costs of several deepwater navigation projects currently under construction by about $400 million over the 2008-2012 period.

Ports Association Endorses Short Sea Bill

The North Atlantic Ports Association has endorsed legislation exempting short sea transportation from the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT).
Introduced in June by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the legislation (S. 1683) would exempt from the harbor maintenance tax certain commercial cargo loaded at a U.S. port in the Lakes/Seaway system and unloaded at another U.S. port in the system.

Furthermore, there would be no tax on commercial cargo loaded at a Canadian port in the Lakes/Seaway system and unloaded at a U.S. port in the Lakes/Seaway system.

Environmental Review of LORAN Program

The U.S. Coast Guard is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the future of the Long Range Aids to Navigation (LORAN) program.
The current system, LORAN-C, provides navigation, location and timing services for both civil and military air, land and marine users in the continental United States and Alaska.

The EIS will evaluate the environmental effect of alternative futures for the LORAN-C program and will help the Coast Guard decide whether to terminate or continue to operate and invest in the LORAN-C system.

Foss Joins SmartWay Transport Partnership

The Foss Maritime Co., Seattle, operator of one of the largest fleets of tugs and barges on the west coast, has become the first carrier to join the SmartWay Transport Partnership, a voluntary collaboration between the Environmental Protection Agency and the freight industry. The Partnership, launched in 2004, is designed to increase energy efficiency while significantly reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution.

Foss has pledged to contribute to the partnership’s goal to reduce 33 to 66 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and up to 200,000 tons of nitrogen oxide per year by 2012 by improving the environmental performance of its marine operations.

Foss recently announced that it will build the first true hybrid tugboat, scheduled to be delivered next year to Southern California, where it will work in the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

House Asked to Support Waterway Watch

A resolution calling on members of the House of Representatives to support America’s Waterway Watch program has been introduced by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.).

The program conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard is designed to encourage a heightened sense of awareness among America’s 70 million boaters and others who live, work or engage in recreational activities around the waterways. The program urges waterway watchers to report suspicious and unusual activities to the Coast Guard National Response Center and other appropriate law enforcement agencies.

Among other things, the program educates the public on what suspicious activity is and provides a toll-free telephone number, 877-24-WATCH, for the public to report such activity to prevent terrorism and other criminal acts.

Anderson Renominated as Federal Maritime Commissioner

A. Paul Anderson, nominated in 2003 and confirmed by the Senate in 2004 as Federal Maritime Commissioner, has been renominated by President Bush for the term expiring June 30, 2012. Anderson’s current term expired June 30. Among positions held by Anderson in private industry were those of director for public affairs, assistant to the president and marketing manager for Hvide Marine Inc. (now operating as Seabulk Inc.), a diversified marine transportation company with tanker, offshore supply vessel, tug boat and barge operations.

Coast Guard Requirements for Merchant Mariners

The U.S. Coast Guard wants to make some administrative changes intended to eliminate confusion and clarify training and service requirements for merchant mariners.

The proposed changes would remove the expiration date of the radar-observer endorsement from the merchant mariner’s license, allow for an apprentice mate of towboats to reduce sea-service time in moving up to mate (pilot) by completing additional approved training, and provide an alternate path for a master of a passenger vessel not more than 200 gross tons to qualify as towboat mate. Details of the proposed alternate path are spelled out in the September 17 Federal Register.

By Professional Mariner Staff