Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Washington Waves: August 13, 2018

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers launched an effort to get more states to assume authority over permitting for dredged and fill material  discharged into navigable waters or certain wetlands by providing clarity over which waters could fall under their jurisdiction.

“This action supports this administration’s dedication to infrastructure by providing states and tribes the clarity they need to better balance their environmental protection mission with their economic development goals,” said R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

“In my view, implementing Section 404 in this clear and decisive manner not only adheres to the language of the statute and the intent of Congress when enacting Section 404(g), but it is also in the overall best interest of the Army and the regulated public.”

Despite the law that allows states to assume such authority, only two—Michigan and New Jersey—have done so.

James stated in his memorandum states and tribes need not wait on further rulemaking by the Environmental Protection Agency to add even more clarity on Section 404.

Clearly the Trump administration hopes the initial steps it is taking now will not only clarify what is possible under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) but also remove barriers that have kept states and tribes from assuming that authority.

Its announcement also explained the effort does not affect the scope of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the CWA.

TWIC Reader Delay

President Donald Trump signed into law a bill delaying a U.S. Coast Guard rule on electronic inspections of Transportation Worker Identification Credentials pending a report to Congress on the efficacy of that security enhancement requirement.

Lt. Amy Midgett said the Coast Guard will comply with the law and looks forward to working with its federal partners and industry stakeholders to resolve concerns regarding the methodology used to select the facilities subject to the rule and its potential economic impact.

The RAND Corporation confirmed it has contracted with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to conduct the required study, referring to the announcement stating the work should be completed by April 26, 2019.

According to the American Association of Port Authorities, its recent security seminar in Chicago included a wide-ranging discussion on the TWIC reader rule and the overall trajectory of the program.

AAPA said it has provided background to RAND, adding ports interested in sharing input can contact its staff.

After lawmakers from both sides of the aisle questioned the program, the bill to put it on hold passed by voice vote in the House and unanimous consent in the Senate, a sign of how much support it drew.

The American Waterways Operators commended the Coast Guard’s effort to delay parts of the rule that apply to certain facilities by three years until August 23, 2021, and urged the agency to reconsider the requirement for barge fleeting facilities not already exempt.

Infrastructure Push

President Trump and key members of Congress are being targeted by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) in a national television and digital ad campaign calling for action on a major infrastructure package.

A 30-second ad entitled “Mission Not Accomplished” is the August 6–18 campaign’s centerpiece and will run on Fox programs in a bid to catch the president’s attention.

Ads also will run on various digital platforms and newspapers in markets represented by key members of Congress.

Results of a national poll were released showing three-fourths of Americans want Trump to his campaign promise to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure.

“During the 2016 election, there was a lot of talk about fixing our country’s roads and bridges, but very little has been done since,” AEM President Dennis Slater said.

“Our country risks losing tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity if Congress and the Trump administration don’t act soon.”

AEM also has scheduled a town hall meeting August 16 in Bismarck, N.D., that will be streamed live on Facebook.

DOT Port Grants

The Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee advanced a bill to authorize a competitive grant program at the U.S. Department of Transportation for port improvements.

Introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the Port Operations, Research, and Technology Act, S. 3273, was approved by voice vote without debate.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the committee’s ranking member, expressed appreciation for Wicker’s approach on ports and the feedback from maritime labor industries, adding he looks forward to continuing the bipartisan effort to safeguard maritime jobs.

An early proponent of such a program, AAPA has praised the legislation for speaking directly to the multimodal and connectivity needs of the port industry.

“Your legislation takes that needed next step in ensuring that first-and last-mile resources are available for stronger port landside and waterside connections,” AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle stated in a letter to Wicker.

MRC Meetings Set

The Mississippi River Commission has scheduled four meetings later this month aboard the mv. Mississippi V.

Open to the public, the meetings will be held at 9 a.m. August 20 at City Front, Caruthersville, Mo.; August 21 at Beale Street Landing, Memphis, Tenn.; at noon August 22 at City Front, Vicksburg, Miss.; and at 9 a.m. August 24 at Morgan City Port Commission Dock, Morgan City, La.

Agendas include a report by the commission president on issues affecting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and presentations on local matters.

For additional information, contact Charles Camillo at 601-634-7023.

Medical Advisory Committee

The Merchant Mariner Medical Advisory Committee and its working groups are scheduled to meet September 13–14 in Dania Beach, Fla., to discuss medical certification determinations for issuance of licenses, certificates of registry, merchant mariners’ documents and other issues.

Open to the public, the meetings will begin at 8 a.m. on both days at STAR Center, 2 West Dixie Highway, Dania Beach, Fla., 33004.

Pre-meeting comments must be received by September 5.

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

MERPAC To Meet

The Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee and its working groups will meet in September in Florida to discuss issues related to the training and fitness of merchant marine personnel.

Open to the public, the meeting of the committee and its working group will begin at 8 a.m. on September 11, and committee will meet again at 8 a.m. on September 12.

Both meetings will be held at the STAR Center, 2 West Dixie Highway, Dania Beach, Fla. 33004.

Pre-meeting comments must be received by September 5.

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

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