Washington Waves

Washington Waves: October 29, 2018

Washington, D.C.—President Donald Trump signed a major water resources development bill into law, praising the improvements it authorizes to  inland waterways, ports, dams, hydropower and other projects across the country.

During an Oval Office bill-signing event that drew a bipartisan group of key lawmakers, Trump also singled out the new law’s provisions that will speed up infrastructure projects.

“They built up artificial roadblocks that just weren’t letting the things get done that we had to have done,” he said, making it clear he was talking about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We’re getting rid of all of them. And EPA is moving very, very fast, and the Army Corps is starting to move very quickly also.”

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James and Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, commanding general of the Corps, joined the members of Congress at the event.

Trump recalled his campaign promise to rebuild the nation’s “crumbling infrastructure,” describing the new law as another important step toward that goal.

Named America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, Senate Bill 3021 also included provisions to create a new framework to increase local stakeholder input and transparency.

Its passage also kept to a schedule calling for such major water resources legislation to be passed every two years, viewed as a significant achievement by veteran lawmakers who remember that prior to 2014 Congress had not passed a water resources development act for seven years.

Another provision in the new law calls for the current organizational structure of the Corps’ civil works functions to be studied by the National Academy of Sciences, a step back from the goal pushed earlier by some to remove the Corps from the Department of Defense and divide up its functions between the departments of Transportation and Interior.

WOTUS Agenda

In touting its own “strong progress” on regulatory reform, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seems to have revealed more than it was prepared to discuss when it comes to exactly how soon its ongoing effort against the Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule will be completed.

First came an EPA press release on the so-called Unified Agenda that deals with regulatory and deregulatory actions and included a revised definition of WOTUS among priority actions it plans to propose or complete in the coming year.

So far, so good.

But then that press release included a link that led to a timetable that puts the date on a final rule as September 2019, which does not track with the aggressive schedule laid out repeatedly at various congressional hearings.

Just weeks before he resigned in July amid sharp criticism of his leadership at EPA, then-Administrator Scott Pruitt responded to concerns the agency’s WOTUS effort might be slipping by assuring a Senate panel it was on schedule and would be completed by the end of 2018.

An EPA spokesman repeatedly played down the significance of the 2019 reference, finally saying the Unified Agenda was “not written in stone.”

Meanwhile, acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler earlier this month again suggested WOTUS watchers can expect a development on that front in the coming days.

Port Investments 

The American Association of Port Authorities expressed support for a bill introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, to improve the nation’s freight systems by investing in ports, railways and intermodal hubs.

“Our economy relies on domestic and international freight making its way through our ports, railways and intermodal hubs,” Carper said.

“Regrettably, as a country, we haven’t been making investments in our national transportation system that we need to.”

AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle highlighted provisions in Senate Bill 3587 to repeal the multimodal cap on a discretionary grant program.

Carper introduced the bill as the Senate left; it is not expected to return until mid-November.

Replacement Credentials

Mariners whose credentials were lost or destroyed by Hurricane Michael or subsequent flooding may be issued duplicate credentials free of charge, the National Maritime Center (NMC) announced.

For an expedited replacement credential, the NMC said, mariners should provide a statement of loss either by fax at 304-433-3412 or email to  IASKNMC@uscg.mil that contains their full name, date of birth, reference number or Social Security number, current mailing address and phone number and/or email address and a brief description of the circumstances surrounding the loss or destruction of the credential.

Unless otherwise requested, the NMC added, any duplicate MMCs issued per the request process will include a corresponding Medical Certificate.

“We will make every effort to have duplicate credentials mailed out the next business day,” the NMC stated.

“Alternatively, mariners may submit a CG-719B, Application for MMC, to one of the Regional Examination Centers with the information above.”

For additional information, contact the NMC Customer Service Center by emailing IASKNMC@uscg.milor calling 1-888-427-5662.

NMSAC To Meet

The National Maritime Security Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet November 6-7 in Houston, Texas.

Open to the public, the meetings will begin at noon on November 6 and 8 a.m. on November 7 at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel by Houston Hobby Airport, 8181 Airport Blvd., Houston, Texas 77061.

Online participation also will be available by logging on at https://share.dhs.gov/ nmsac/ and following instructions to register.

Items on the agenda include updates on cyber security, threats of unmanned aircraft systems and maritime security at the Port of Houston.

For additional information, contact Ryan Owens at 202-372-1108.

Committee Vacancy

The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking applications to fill one vacancy on the Area Maritime Security Advisory Committee, Eastern Great Lakes Northwestern Pennsylvania Regional Subcommittee.

Applications must be submitted by November 23 to Captain of the Port, Buffalo, Attention: Lt. Cmdr. Marvin Kimmel, 1 Fuhrmann Blvd., Buffalo, N.Y. 14203-3189.

For additional information, contact Joseph Fetscher at 216-937-0126.

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