Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Infrastructure Line In Speech Wins Rare Bipartisan Applause

Washington, D.C.—President Donald Trump included infrastructure in his State of the Union address, but he did not pick up the gauntlet eagerly laid down recently by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and other Democrats.

“We must also rebuild America’s infrastructure,” Trump said, triggering one of the few moments of bipartisan applause in the House chamber that night.

“I ask you to pass Sen. John Barrasso’s highway bill to invest in new roads, bridges, and tunnels all across our land.”

He also expressed his commitment to ensuring every American has access to high-speed internet, especially those in rural areas.

Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, welcomed the shout-out and said senators stand ready to pass America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act. Passed unanimously last summer by his committee, Senate Bill 2302 is a five-year, $287-billion reauthorization measure.

Pelosi, key chairmen and several freshmen Democrats just days ago unveiled a five-year, $760 billion “framework” in an attempt to revive the long-dormant effort to move a major infrastructure bill in the remaining months of the current Congress (WJ, February 3).

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called Trump’s brief mention of infrastructure a “massive missed opportunity.”

“That is incredibly disappointing because the reality is that, three years into his administration, President Trump has yet to put forth a single new idea that would fix our roads, bridges, ports, airports, water infrastructure, and transit systems, or show any leadership on how our country funds significant infrastructure investment,” DeFazio said. He said his committee would continue to draft comprehensive infrastructure legislation.

When they unveiled their framework, Democrats left out one crucial detail: how to pay for such a package.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, explained at the time he did not want the committee to come up with a source of revenue to fund the package until a bipartisan deal could be reached with Trump.

It appears unclear how much interest both sides have in bipartisan legislating, even though the months-long effort on impeachment officially came to a close with Trump’s acquittal.

Ferry Grants

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced an opportunity to apply for $30 million in competitive grants under the fiscal year 2020 Passenger Ferry Grant Program.

As required by law, the FTA stated, funds will be awarded competitively to designated recipients or eligible direct recipients of Urbanized Area Formula funds to assist in the financing of capital projects to support existing passenger ferry service, establish new ferry service and to repair and modernize ferry boats, terminals, and related facilities and equipment.

Additional funding may be awarded to the program prior to the announcement of project selections, FTA said.

Completed proposals must be submitted electronically through the grants.gov website by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on March 30.
Prospective applicants were encouraged to initiate the process promptly by registering on grants.gov  to ensure completion of the application process by the deadline.

For additional information, contact Vanessa Williams at 202-366-4818.

Users Board To Meet

The Inland Waterways Users Board is scheduled to meet February 19 in Fort Smith, Ark. Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 8 a.m. at the Fort Smith Convention Center, 55 S. 7th St., Fort Smith, Ark. 72901.

Items on the agenda include status reports of fiscal year 2020 funding for inland and coastal navigation; the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) and project updates; construction activities for the Olmsted Locks and Dam Project; the Monongahela River Locks and Dams 2, 3, and 4 Project; the Chickamauga Lock Project and the Kentucky Lock Project; inland waterways Capital Investment Strategy development; the Three Rivers, Ark., Project; and the Calcasieu Lock Project, and a briefing on “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Economics 101,”  developing benefit-cost ratios and the district reorganization for the Illinois Waterway.

For additional information, contact Mark Pointon at 703-428-6438.

Tank Barge Safety Alert

Mariners were warned of the dangers associated with improper tank cleaning and gas freeing operations by the Coast Guard’s Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis in Marine Safety Alert 01-20, published after a recent tank barge explosion.

Although the investigation into this casualty is not yet complete, Marine Safety Alert 01-20 was published to share best practices to prompt companies to review and update their procedures to prevent similar incidents.

For additional information, email HQS-PF-fldr-CGF-INV@uscg.mil.

VIDA Briefing

The Coast Guard’s Office of Operating and Environmental Standards (OES) held a conference call to brief 55 states and territories on issues related to the Vessel lncidental Discharge Act (VIDA).

Signed into law in 2018, VIDA establishes new responsibilities for the Coast Guard to enforce Environmental Protection Agency performance standards for marine pollution control devices (both equipment and management practices) that control discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel. Previously, these discharges were regulated by the EPA under the Vessel General Permit (VGP) process.

During the call, a working group was established to address issues related to state access to federal vessel arrival data, ballast water management reporting data and enforcement data for commercial vessels operating in U.S. waters.

A representative from the Coast Guard Navigation Center also provided a summary of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and other tracking databases available to state agencies.

One option presented to the states was the Department of Transportation AIS program known as SeaVision.
To date, SeaVision’s data community has accepted account applications from three states.

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center also described the National Ballast Information Clearinghouse, and how ballasting data from commercial vessels is incorporated into a database that provides a national view of ballasting operations.

For further information on VIDA, contact OES at environmental_standards@uscg.mil.

Port Access Route Study

The Coast Guard is seeking comments on a draft version of the Areas Offshore of Massachusetts and Rhode Island Port Access Route study, the goal of which is to enhance navigational safety by examining existing shipping routes and waterway uses.

In addition, evaluating the need for establishing vessel routing measures because of the current and anticipated demands associated with offshore wind leases also will be addressed.

Comments must reach the Coast Guard by March 16.