Legislative/Regulatory

Washington Waves: March 5, 2018

Washington, D.C.—Waterways Council Inc., used its annual press briefing on the federal budget to underscore its concerns on the Trump administration’s proposal for fiscal year 2019 as well as its infrastructure effort.

“We see pretty dire consequences,” said WCI President and CEO Michael Toohey, who earlier had expressed WCI’s disappointment over the proposed budget and the infrastructure principles.

Key concerns covered by Toohey included the waterways industry’s status as the only beneficiary that helps to support the nation’s waterways system through a current fuel tax while other beneficiaries continue to enjoy a free ride, the potential tolls that could be imposed by private entities envisioned by the administration that may not include adequate protection of the public’s interests, and the likely loss of cargo traffic due to the higher costs.
Asked for a response, a White House official said the president’s proposal does not impose specific tolls.

“It simply allows for that option where it makes sense,” the official stated.
On a positive note, Toohey said he remained much more optimistic about the chances of a water resources development bill that is expected in both houses of Congress in the coming months.

Governors And Infrastructure

With the National Governors Association (NGA) in town for its annual winter meeting, the White House made its pitch on President Donald Trump’s 10-year, $1.5 trillion infrastructure effort to state leaders from across the country.
Several administration officials with key roles in the infrastructure proposal met with governors from 17 states during one breakout session.

According to the White House press office, that session focused on multiple ways the president’s infrastructure proposal would empower governors.
NGA Chair Brian Sandoval, a Nevada Republican, has made transportation innovation a part of his initiative, Ahead of the Curve, as head of the organization.

Following the tragic shooting in Florida, both Sandoval and Trump emphasized during their remarks at a business session that school safety would be a top issue during the NGA’s time in Washington.

With no specific response to the administration’s effort, an NGA press release wrapping up the various sessions listed infrastructure as one of several issues discussed during the governors’ visit with lawmakers, and an NGA press official did not offer comment beyond what the White House provided.

Fire Protection Rule

The U.S. Coast Guard requested public comments on an interim final rule on applying updated fire protection requirements to inspected towing vessels.

Made by a 2016 final rule, Harmonization of Standards for Fire Protection, Detection, and Extinguishing Equipment, the Coast Guard stated, the changes will align regulations with those for commercial vessels.

Comments must be received by March 28, 2018, the effective date of the interim rule.

“The interim final rule harmonizes fire protection requirements regarding portable and semi-portable fire extinguishers,” the notice stated.

For additional information, contact Lt. Alexandra Miller at 202-372-1356.

PREP Revisions

The U.S. Coast Guard requested public comments on an analysis of potential deregulatory savings that may result from proposed revisions in the 2016.1 National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program (PREP) guidelines, as it also continues to accept comments pertaining directly to the proposed revisions.

Detailed in a new “Record of Changes,” the proposed revisions were published December 22, 2017. Comments must be received by March 26.

For additional information, contact Jonathan Smith at 202-372-2675.

Project Alterations

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it was extending a public comment period until April 6, 2018, on its proposed policies and procedures on processing requests to alter a civil works project.

Initially started on February 5, 2018, the original public comment period on a draft Engineer Circular was to have run for 30 days.

“The extension of the comment period is a result of requests by entities to allow more time to submit their comments,” the Corps stated in its notice.
For additional information, contact Tammy Conforti at 202-761-4649.

Brazos Floodgates Plan

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the release of the Draft Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement for the recommended plan of Gulf Intracoastal Waterway: Brazos River Floodgates and Colorado River Locks Systems Feasibility Study, Brazos and Matagorda counties in Texas.

A two-hour public meeting has been scheduled by the Galveston District at 6 p.m. on March 13, 2018, at the West Columbia Civic Center, 516 E. Brazos Ave. (State Highway 35), West Columbia, Texas 77486.

Public comments will be accepted until April 11.

For additional information, contact the Galveston District Public Affairs Office at 409-766-3004.

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