Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Bill Seeks To Avoid Shutdown Of DOT, DHS

Washington, D.C.—Federal agencies important to the waterways industry and others would be funded through February 8 by a stopgap spending bill passed by the Senate to avoid a partial government shutdown.

“We need the government to remain open for the American people. We need to wrap up our work for this year,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who introduced the measure.

Top Democrats announced their support, and a voice vote by the Senate sent the bill to the House.

To avoid a partial shutdown, President Donald Trump must sign the bill into law by the weekend.

Trump had been insisting the bill must include $5 billion to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, which Democratic leaders oppose.

Agencies covered by the bill include the departments of Transportation and Homeland Security.

WRDA Implementation

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking public comment on developing guidance on implementing various provisions of the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 and on revisions to provisions in 2014 and 2016 laws.

That request drew criticism from the National Waterways Conference.

“We have expressed our serious concerns that this process falls far short of the engagement called for in WRDA 2018,” NWC said in a news alert.

NWC pointed to provisions that deal with the way the Corps would interact with non-federal stakeholders.

“These two provisions, for which NWC strongly advocated, clearly contemplate a more interactive process,” the organization stated.

According to the NWC, the 30-plus provisions covered by the Corps’ request range from Dissemination of Information and Dredge Pilot Program to Construction of Water Resources Development Projects by Non-Federal Interests.

The 60-day public comment period closes at midnight, February 12.

Cyber Risks

The American Waterways Operators released a document on best practices to help the tugboat, towboat and barge industry identify and manage cyber risks and detect and respond to cyber attacks and accidents.

“The tugboat, towboat and barge industry is a vital component of our nation’s critical infrastructure, transporting annually over 760 million tons of commodities that power the American economy, and working in constant partnership with the Coast Guard to keep our waterways safe and secure,” AWO President and CEO Tom Allegretti said.

“As our industry continues to integrate cyber systems into all aspects of its operations in order to meet the demand for efficient maritime cargo transport, we recognize the importance of providing our companies with resources to mitigate against the growing range of cyber threats.”

According to the AWO, the document, Cyber Risk Management: Best Practices for the Towing Industry, Version 1.0, is the product of a year-long initiative undertaken by the Cyber Risk Management Quality Action Team, a working group of the Coast Guard-AWO Safety Partnership.

Medical Manual Comments

The U.S. Coast Guard has extended until February 13 the public comment period on a draft Merchant Mariner Medical Manual.

“The extension responds to requests made by the public,” the service said of the month-long extension.

According to the National Maritime Center (NMC), the manual will assist medical practitioners, the maritime industry, individual mariners and Coast Guard personnel in evaluating mariner applicants’ physical and medical statuses to meet the requirements of the merchant mariner medical certificate.

The NMC said the Guard emphasized the draft manual’s readability, clarity and ease of use in its request for comments.

MarAd Survey

The Maritime Administration is seeking public comments on its plans for a biennial survey of U.S. merchant mariners on their availability and willingness on short notice to serve on government-owned sealift ships or commercial ships in the event of war, armed conflict, national emergency or maritime mobilization need.

Comments should be submitted by February 15.

For additional information, contact Nuns Jain at 202-385-0115

House Leadership

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi apparently has nailed down the support to regain the speakership in January by endorsing a later vote on term limits for top party leadership posts.

“I am comfortable with the proposal and it is my intention to abide by it whether it passes or not,” the California Democrat said after reaching the deal with rebels who wanted a change in leadership.

That development allows House Democrats not only to avoid a potentially embarrassing episode on the first day of the new Congress but begin acting on their victory in the mid-term elections.

Great Lakes Advisory Board

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the re-establishment of the Great Lakes Advisory Board (GLAB) following Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s approval of its charter.

GLAB advises on matters related to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada.

Originally established in 2012, GLAB’s charter was renewed in 2014 and 2016 but allowed to expire in June.

Shipping Act Rule

A Federal Maritime Commission rule addressing “unjust and unreasonable” practices and regulations under the Shipping Act of 1984 took effect December 17.

“This interpretation reflects the clear intent of Congress and reflects longstanding commission case law and precedent,” the FMC stated.

The FMC explained the rule will clarify that a claimant in a Section 10(d)(1) action must show that the regulated entity engaged in a practice or regulation that is unjust or unreasonable and did so on a normal, customary and continuous basis.

For additional information, contact Rachel Dickon at 202-523-5725.