Waterways trust fund drawn down to zero

Waterways trust fund drawn down to zero

The barge and towing industry was cautioned Feb. 24 that this is the first year that the Inland Waterways Trust Fund does not have sufficient funding to meet the federal support.

That bad news was relayed by Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.), chairman of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, during his keynote address at the 2009 Spring Seminar of Waterways Council Inc. in Washington, D.C.

Also noting the dwindling fund was Maj. Gen. Merdith W. B. Temple, deputy commanding general for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ civil and emergency operations, who said at the same event that the fund “has been essentially drawn down to zero, and we are limited to spending annually only as much as its annual income of about $85 million allows.â€

In that connection, Temple said a team effort is in the works to develop a long-term capital plan for a “reliable and a resilient inland marine transportation system.â€

“We are developing prioritization criteria…to look at funding strategies,†he said. “The long-term recapitalization plan should be complete by this fall, in time to dovetail with a funding strategy being developed by spring 2010.â€

Visclosky said that steps were taken to lessen the impact of “this very real shortfall,†but that the action was “only temporary.†The temporary relief for the Trust Fund shortfalls includes money from the stimulus bill.

The congressman said he hoped that with the start of a new administration, the appropriate congressional committees — House Transportation and Infrastructure, and Ways and Means, along with their Senate counterparts — will reach agreement on restructuring the revenue stream.

One suggestion, he said, would change the non-federal cost share required for inland navigation projects, an approach that Visclosky said he “firmly opposes for a number of reasons.â€

“No one should expect that a change in cost share will translate to increased funding in a given year,†Visclosky said. “The only outcome will be that projects continue to receive approximately the same level of funding, but the timeline extends out over a greater period of time. I do not believe this is in your interest or in the interest of good project management.†With the FY 2010 bill fast approaching, he said, “there is no time to waste to ensure the funding needed to support the federal appropriations will be ready and available.†He said the development and care of the waterways “is a partnership. … That is why construction projects are cost-shared.â€

Stimulus package includes $64 million for transportation

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1), a $787 billion stimulus package signed by President Obama two months ago, provides $64.1 billion to enhance the safety, security and efficiency of the nation’s transportation infrastructure, including that of inland waterways and maritime transport.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said the $64.1 billion under its jurisdiction includes $4.6 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, $240 million for the Coast Guard and $100 million for the Maritime Administration’s small shipyard grants.

A breakdown of the funds set aside for the Corps’ civil works program includes $2 billion for construction, $2.075 billion for operations and maintenance, $375 million for Mississippi River and tributaries, $25 million for investigations and $25 million for the Corps’ regulatory program.

The Coast Guard funds would be for bridge alterations, $142 million; and construction of shore facilities and aids-to-navigation facilities, and vessel repairs, $98 million.

The Corps’ construction funds are included in the $410 billion Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, that wrapped up work on nine fiscal year 2009 appropriations measures that were not passed by the 110th Congress.

Still making its way through the legislative mill is the administration’s proposed $3.6 trillion spending bill for the next fiscal year beginning October 1st. Details of the proposed budget were to become available in the latter part of April. The proposed FY 2010 budget includes $5.1 billion for the civil works program of the Army Corps of Engineers. That sum would be in addition to the $4.6 billion provided for Corps programs in the stimulus bill.

The proposed Corps budget for FY 2010 also seeks to phase out the current excise tax on diesel fuel for the inland waterways and replace it with a lock usage fee.

Caponiti named to fill in for Connaughton

James E. Caponiti, assistant maritime administrator, was elevated to acting deputy maritime administrator, following the resignation on Inauguration Day of Maritime Administrator Sean Connaughton.

After resigning his post, Connaughton joined the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) as corporate vice president for government affairs.

Caponiti is a member of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service. He was named assistant administrator last May. Prior to that, Caponiti served as the agency’s associate administrator for national security.

LaHood expedites port projects, supports marine highway program

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a featured speaker at the Spring Conference of the American Association of Port Authorities, singled out American seaports as “the economic engine of the country.â€

“Clearly, our seaports facilitate commerce and trade on a global scale,†LaHood said. “They enable us to compete effectively. What’s more, maritime transportation is good for the environment, generating lower emissions than some surface modes, and offsetting rail and truck congestion.â€

Besides expediting port development projects in Alaska, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and Guam ahead of schedule, LaHood said, DOT “also is committed to doing more with America’s Marine Highway, a 25,000-mile expanse of coastal, inland and intracoastal waterways that move freight. This network is currently under-utilized.â€

LaHood said that the department’s marine highway program “promises to help accelerate and expand the use of this valuable national network, so we can reduce the congestion outside your gates, and transport even more freight and passengers in a greener, more efficient manner.â€

Darcy nominated Army civil works chief

President Obama has nominated Jo-Ellen Darcy, senior environmental advisor to the Senate Finance Committee, to the post of assistant secretary of the Army (Civil Works).

If confirmed by the Senate, Darcy will succeed John Paul Woodley Jr. As advisor to the Finance Committee, Darcy is working to develop energy, environmental and conservation initiatives using the tax code.

Previously, Darcy served as senior policy advisor, deputy staff director and professional staff on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Darcy has held a number of other positions, including executive director at the Great Lakes and Water Resources Planning Commission in Michigan, assistant to the director of personnel for Michigan Gubernatorial Appointments, and legislative and policy analyst in the U.S. House Banking Subcommittee on Economic Stabilization.

Towing Safety Advisory Committee to meet May 7

The Towing Safety Advisory Committee and its working groups on the Revision of Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) 04-01, and on the Clarification of Current Licensing Regulations pertaining to Apprentice Mates (Steersmen) will meet in May at the American Maritime Officers STAR Center in Dania Beach, Fla.

The working groups will be meeting May 6 and the full committee on May 7. For more information, contact Gerald P. Miante at (202) 372-1401.

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.

Questions for Carlo? editors@profressionstg.wpengine.com

By Professional Mariner Staff