Washington Report

The Waterways Journal
13 October 2014
By Carlo J. Salzano, WJ Washington Correspondent

Washington, D.C. - Amy W. Larson, president of the National Waterways Conference, has submitted comments in response to four webinars held by the Army Corps of Engineers to receive input while it develops guidance to implement the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA).

The webinars, held August 13, 27, September 10 and September 24, and Larson’s comments, focused on deauthorizations and backlog prevention; funding provisions in the new law; dam and levee safety and regulatory issues, and non-federal implementation of studies and projects.

Addressing the subject matter taken up at the first webinar, Larson urged the Corps not to use the same metrics when developing deauthorization recommendations that it uses in developing its year-to-year operation and maintenance requests.

“Current funding metrics serve to pit one waterway against another, leading to bias against smaller systems, ignoring the economic activity associated with the smaller systems,” Larson said. “This type of approach fails to take into consideration whether a system can produce economic benefits that outweigh annual funding needs.”

In a discussion of alternative funding, Larson encouraged the secretary of the Army to move forward “in an expeditious manner to establish the pilot program to allow the acceptance of funds contributed by non-federal interests to increase the hours of lock operations along the waterways. Many local communities have been detrimentally impacted by the reduction of service hours at locks and seek to use this new authority to keep their locks open for recreational boating and fishing. Given the significant economic importance of such activities, we encourage prompt implementation of this authority.”

Addressing the third webinar, which was devoted to levee and dam safety, and regulation, Larson said that development of levee safety guidelines “must integrate valid risk reduction measures put in place by local governments and which further the longstanding federal commitment to cost-benefit analysis as a basis for evaluating policy changes and their impact to national well-being, clear statements must be made about anticipated economic and financial implications associated with guideline promulgation and implementation.”

Furthermore, Larson urged the use of “an open and transparent process to develop the hazard potential classification system and to inform how the levee safety action classification will be applied.”

Finally, Larson said the NWC supports the WRRDA provision designed to “enhance the role of the non-federal sponsor in project development and encourages the Corps to implement this provision in accordance with the clear congressional intent to expand the role of non-federal entities in project delivery.”

Navigation Rules Handbook

The National Maritime Center has announced that the Coast Guard has published the Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook, replacing the former Navigation Rules International and inland.

The handbook includes the International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) and the Inland Navigation Rules.

Other laws and regulations pertinent for mariners and waterway users are also included (e.g., Bridge-to-Bridge Radiotelephone Act and Vessel Traffic Services).

ALCOAST 411-14 introduces the handbook and discusses issues such as requirements to carry.

The navigation rules and additional information regarding the new handbook can be found online at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Navigation Center website, www.navcen.uscg.gov, by selecting “Nav Rules” from the upper navigation bar.

‘Waters’ Definition Comment Period

The Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency have extended—from October 20 to November 14—the comment period for the proposed rule “Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act” published on April 21 (WJ, May 5, 2014).

The comment period was extended in response to stakeholder requests for an extension and to allow comments on new supporting materials.

For more information, contact Donna Downing at 202, 566-2428 or Stacey Jensen at 202, 761-5856.

Panama Canal Tonnage

The Panama Canal registered 326.8 million Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System tons of cargo during the fiscal year that ended September 30. The year’s total was 2 percent higher than the 320.6 million PC/UMS tons registered in fiscal 2013.

The Panama Canal Authority said the increase was primarily driven by the bulk carrier segment that registered an 18 percent increase, or 86 million tons, compared with 73 million tons in FY 2013.

Other top market segments during the just-concluded fiscal year included car carriers with 46 million tons and gas carriers with 6 million tons, which increased 7 percent and 24 percent, respectively, the authority said.

CG/NOAA Fleet Plan

The Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) signed a Fleet Plan and Officer Exchange memorandum of understanding (MOU) October 8.

The fleet plan supplements the Cooperative Maritime Strategy (CMS) that was signed in February 2013 and establishes a course of action to guide cooperation in the operation and maintenance of marine and navigation platforms. The officer exchange MOU supports both the CMS and the fleet plan by allowing the exchange of officer personnel for the purpose of sharing professional knowledge, expertise, doctrine, and for the professional development of officers.

“The MOU builds on the long history of cooperation between NOAA and the Coast Guard,” said Coast Guard Vice Adm. Charles Michel, deputy commandant for operations.

“These important agreements provide a framework for leveraging out respective resources and enhancing collaboration where we have common interests regarding personnel, fleet operations, research and development,” said NOAA Vice Adm. Michael Devany, deputy under secretary for operations. Michel and Devany signed the joint letter of promulgation.

Champion Of Maritime

The American Maritime Partnership (AMP) has named Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky a “Champion of Maritime” for “consistently supporting the critical role the domestic maritime industry and the Jones Act play in America’s national, economic and homeland security.”

The AMP said the Republican senator’s home state ranks fifth in the nation in per capita domestic maritime jobs, according to a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Transportation Institute. Furthermore, AMP said, Kentucky’s maritime industry transports more that 43.8 million tons of water cargo each year.

“Sen. McConnell knows first-hand the important role American maritime and our inland waterways play in moving freight into and out of our nation’s heartland,” said AMP Chairman Thomas Allegretti, president and chief executive officer of the American Waterways operators.

MERPAC Nominations

The Coast Guard has invited interested parties to apply for membership on the Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee by December 8.

The Coast Guard said it would consider applications to fill six positions that expire or will become vacant June 1, 2015.

For more information, contact Davis J. Breyer at 202, 372-1445.

Boating Safety Committee

The Coast Guard said October 7 that the National Boating Safety Advisory Committee plans to meet November 6, when it may recommend the “areas of interest” that should be the focus of Coast Guard boating safety grants to nonprofit organizations in Fiscal Year 2015.

The location of the meeting was not publicly disclosed because it’s for members only (WJ, October 13).