Washington Waves
Washington Waves

House Defense Authorization Bill Boosts Inland Port Funding

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. House of Representatives has approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with language to increase access to federal funding for small coastal and inland ports and terminals, make privately owned terminals eligible for assistance, provide relief to the maritime industry during a national emergency and boost training opportunities for merchant mariners.

Introduced initially by Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) as the Coastal and Inland Ports and Terminals Commerce Improvements Act, the NDAA amendment would establish a competitive grant matching program for smaller ports and terminals.

“Inland ports are a vital part of our nation’s commercial transportation network,” Bost said. “However, because of their size, they often lack access to the same resources as larger facilities. Improving access to these critical federal dollars will benefit regional economic development and farmers, miners and commodities producers that depend on inland shipping to export American-produced goods in the global market.”

Aimee Andres, executive director of Inland Rivers, Ports & Terminals Inc., said Bost’s language addresses inequities in existing law that place smaller ports and terminals at a disadvantage when competing for infrastructure investment and creating long-term sustainability.

“The program will help relieve the capital costs needed to increase throughput cargo without passing that capital cost on to customers,” Andres said, adding the legislation sponsored by Bost “promotes short sea shipping, helps strengthen America’s maritime industry and promotes maritime careers.”

Also included in the NDAA was language to create the National Shipper Advisory Committee to advise the Federal Maritime Commission on policies related to competitiveness, reliability, integrity and fairness of the international ocean freight delivery system.

Approved by a vote of 295 to 125, H.R. 6395 also includes the Coast Guard Authorization Act.

The Senate is working on its version of the NDAA. President Donald Trump has said he may veto the legislation because of language on taking Confederate names off military posts and other issues.

Coronavirus Relief Bill

With both houses of Congress back in session, talks on what is expected to be a final coronavirus relief package are being held, and so far the focus remains on differences pitting Republican against Republican in the Senate as well as those separating Senate Republicans and the White House.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters he plans to introduce “starting place” legislation that enjoys “fairly significant support” among Republican senators. McConnell indicated another round of direct checks to some Americans will be included in his bill.

Sticking points include a payroll tax cut, an extension of the $600 weekly jobless benefit that is set to expire at the end of July and the size of the relief package.

McConnell again repeated his own red line. “I won’t put a bill on the floor that doesn’t have liability protection in it,” he said, emphasizing his approach will cover not only businesses but schools, including colleges, hospitals, doctors and nurses.

Democrats also have staked out strong positions on certain issues, and McConnell repeatedly conceded they are not irrelevant to the process.

The House approved its latest coronavirus relief bill in May.

Appropriations Bills

The House continued its push to hold floor votes on appropriations bills for fiscal year 2021 before it breaks for August.

First up was H.R. 7608, a four-bill minibus that combined spending bills on State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA, Interior-Environment, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. That will be followed by H.R. 7617, a seven-bill minibus that covers Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy and Water Development, Financial Service and General Government, Homeland Security, Labor-HHS-Education and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development.

A confident-sounding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said her chamber is on track to pass legislation to fund 96 percent of the government before the end of July.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he was encouraged to see the process moving forward, but added the bills as advanced out of the panel provide a “false sense of accomplishment.” Cole referred to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, which set budgetary levels for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 that are exceeded by the bills Democrats sent to the House floor.

He predicted the process to get to a final version that will be signed into law by the president will be much more complicated by those spending figures as well as by controversial policy riders.

Coastal Engineering Research

The Board on Coastal Engineering Research is scheduled to meet via videoconference and teleconference August 25–26 to identify U.S. Army Corps of Engineers coastal research priorities related to present and future compound flooding and multiple, coincident hazards that increase coastal risk.

Open to the public, the meetings on both days are to begin at 9:30 a.m. Central time, with an executive session to convene at 4 p.m. on August 26.

Those interested in participating in the meetings online or by phone must submit their name, organization, email and telephone contact information to Tanita Warren at Tanita.S.Warren@usace.army.mil no later than August 20. Specific instructions will be provided by reply email.

For additional information, contact Dr. Julie Dean Rosati at 202-761-1850.

Great Lakes Grants

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced grants and projects totaling more than $12 million to help clean up the Great Lakes in the Toledo, Ohio, area.

“Now is the time to clean up past pollution and marine litter on the Maumee River, which in turn will help reinvigorate Toledo and northwest Ohio’s future,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), co-chairman of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, applauded the announcement, saying his state’s waterways not only provide drinking water but they also support the fishing and tourism industries that employ thousands.

Alaskan Study Extended Again

The Coast Guard once again extended the comment period on the Port Access Route Study: Alaskan Arctic Coast, and this time the deadline has been moved to more than a year away.

Comments now must be received by September 30, 2021.

“The Coast Guard has extended the comment period to provide adequate opportunity for in-person public meetings in directly impacted Arctic communities, given recent COVID-19 impacts to travel within the state of Alaska,” Lt. Stephanie Alvarez said.

“The Port Access Route Study remains a high priority for the Coast Guard.”

For additional information, contact Lt. Cmdr. Michael Newell at 907-463-2263.

COVID Impact On Supply Chain

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) announced that its investigation into the impact of COVID-19 on the supply chain moved into Phase 2 and will be focused on the operations at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and surrounding facilities.

Commissioner Rebecca Dye, who is heading up the investigation, also announced plans for an online seminar addressing key topics of interest to the industry, with details to be provided later.

As they did during Phase 1 in southern California, Supply Chain Innovation Teams will be tasked with identifying operational challenges to efficient port and supply chain operations and then proposing an industry-driven solution.

FMC stated a later phase of Fact Finding 29 will focus on the Port of New Orleans.

Northern California RNAs

The Coast Guard announced it was establishing Regulated Navigation Areas (RNAs) along the northern California coast to create additional safety requirements for recreational and small commercial vessels during periods of hazardous conditions, such as high wind or breaking surf.

Effective August 17, the rule also is to establish clear procedures for restricting and closing these harbor bar entrances in the event of unsafe conditions. The RNAs are to be established at the harbor bar entrances to Crescent City Harbor, Humboldt Bay, Noyo River and Morro Bay.

For additional information, contact Lt. Marcia Medina at 510-437-2978.