Washington Waves: June 4, 2018

Washington, D.C.—Bills that would impact the waterways industry by funding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and boost the nation’s water transportation system could be among the first acted upon by lawmakers headed back to Capitol Hill after a week-long break for Memorial Day.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, noted his panel’s bill that includes Corps funding was the first to receive a full committee markup. Clearly, he wants it to keep that lead.

Alexander has described the bill as an anti-omnibus, echoing those who want to avoid yet another massive measure to keep the federal government open and funded in fiscal year 2019.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) attended the committee markup and again signaled leadership’s commitment to returning to regular order on moving the individual appropriations bills, beginning in June.

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McConnell suggested, however, a “minibus” approach might be needed to keep that process on track.

The National Waterways Conference (NWC) noted the Senate bill funds the Corps’ civil works program at $6.9 billion, which is $100 million over the current fiscal year’s enacted level but less than the $7.28 billion in the House version.

“Numerous amendments are expected to be offered when the bill is brought to the Senate floor,” NWC predicted.

During the committee markup, only one amendment, on dealing with the location of the Appalachian Regional Commission headquarters, won approval.

On the House side, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.,) included a committee-approved Water Resources Development Act of 2018 in his “A Few Important Things” column that focused on achievements that might have gone under the radar for some.

A House aide said WRDA is expected to be on the floor during the week of June 4.

Ryan quoted an op-ed in the Kansas City Star by Reps. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the panel’s Highways and Transit Subcommittee.

Shuster and Graves singled out provisions in the new WRDA bill to address the Corps’ record of being “notoriously slow” when it comes to vital projects.

Academy Superintendent

The Maritime Administration announced it will be looking for a successor to Rear Adm. James Helis, who is leaving as superintendent of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) at Kings Point, N.Y., to become a special assistant to MarAd Administrator Mark Buzby in Washington, D.C.

“During this transition period, it is our priority to find an exceptional person to lead the academy into the future, while still maintaining a strong and effective organization,” MarAd stated.

“Accordingly, Adm. Helis will continue leading the USMMA while we conduct an extensive search for a new superintendent.  We thank Adm. Helis for his service, and for his willingness to serve through the transition.”

MarAd expects a change of command ceremony later in the summer.

It credited Helis, who served as USMMA superintendent for six years, for leading a response to a number of complex matters such as the financial and management issues that had threatened USMMA’s accreditation.

“Under his leadership, the academy launched several major construction projects as part of its capital improvement plan,” MarAd stated.

“Today, the academy remains fully accredited and the student body’s educational experience has been enhanced by much-needed improvements to the facilities where midshipmen learn, live, eat, and study.”

While leading the academy, Helis also has had to deal with an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations.

Maritime Day Proclamation

In his proclamation designating May 22, 2018, as National Maritime Day, President Donald Trump recognized the critical role the U.S. Merchant Marine, the “Fourth Arm of Defense,” plays in bolstering national security and facilitating economic growth.

“Today, American mariners facilitate the shipment of hundreds of billions of dollars of goods along maritime trade routes for American businesses and consumers,” the proclamation stated, describing merchant mariners as ambassadors of goodwill who project a peaceful United States presence along the sea lanes of  the work and into regions of core strategic importance to the nation.

MTSNAC Meeting

The U.S. Maritime Transportation System National Advisory Committee will meet June 11–12 in Arlington, Va.

Open to the public, the meetings will be held at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s National Training Center, 1310 N. Courthouse Road, Suite 600, Arlington, Va. 22201.

They will begin at 9:30 a.m. on June 11 and 9 a.m. on June 12.

Items on the agenda include updates on subcommittee work and development of proposed recommendations.

For additional information, contact Jeffrey Flumignan at 212-668-2064.

IMO Working Group

The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will conduct a public workshop in Washington, D.C., for the upcoming intersessional working group meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Beginning at 10 a.m. on June 5, the meeting will be held in Room 5, which is located near the main entrance of the U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, D.C., across the street from the Navy Yard-Ballpark Metro station.

 In addition to obtaining stakeholder input prior to the intersessional working group meeting, the two agencies will provide background information on the Marine Environment and Protection Committee, which meets in October.

Afterward, the Coast Guard will moderate a discussion on a number of related issues.

For additional information, contact Wayne Lundy at 202-372-1379.

Maritime History Grants

The National Park Service has announced $2.6 million in grants to help fund projects to teach about and preserve sites and objects related to the nation’s maritime history.

Awarded in partnership with the Maritime Administration, the maritime heritage grants in the current round will help fund 34 project in 14 states and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Grants are funded through recycling of vessels from MarAd’s National Defense Reserve Fleet.

This year’s grants range from $200,000 to the Destroyer Escort Historical Museum in New York for shipyard repair of the USS Slater mast and hull to $18,535 to the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center in Massachusetts to support a project on the fishing industry.