Washington, D.C.—The Maritime Administration (MarAd) has launched a new Marine Highway module of the Port Planning & Investment Toolkit to help U.S. ports plan, evaluate and finance freight transportation projects.
Produced as part of an agreement with the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), the agency said, the toolkit will provide ports with a common framework and examples of best practices.
MarAd highlighted assisting metropolitan and regional planning organizations and state agencies in qualifying for formula funding, better positioning marine highway projects for federal aid and assisting ports in obtaining private sector investments.
“This Toolkit will help the development of future port projects and improve the nation’s long-term efficiency and economic competitiveness,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.
MarAd Administrator Mark Buzby predicted such assistance will pay dividends for years.
“I am pleased that the new module of the Toolkit focuses on investments in America’s Marine Highways, which can help reduce traffic congestion and related pollution by moving cargoes off our crowded highways and onto to our nation’s navigable waterways,” he said.
AAPA President and CEO Christopher Connor said his organization recognizes the many infrastructure project needs and funding concerns faced by America’s ports.
“To help address these challenges, AAPA and MarAd jointly brought together a host of marine highway project experts to assist in developing the newest addition to the Toolkit resource,” Connor said.
“Our strong belief is it will help U.S. ports in developing ‘investment grade’ project plans and obtain capital for their marine highway projects.”
WRDA Work Continues
Chairmen from both sides of the Capitol remain committed to sending a 2020 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) to President Donald Trump to be signed into law, aides said.
Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) continues to work with Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.) and their bipartisan House counterparts on water infrastructure legislation that can be sent to the president before the end of the year, said Sarah Durdaller, press secretary for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
A House Democratic aide said staffs from the Senate panel and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee continue preconference negotiations to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions.
“The chairman is committed to enactment of WRDA 2020 before the end of the Congress,” the aide said of Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Committee.
Those statements followed concerns coming from key WRDA supporters that Congress may fail to stick with the goal of passing a WRDA bill every two years.
“Will WRDA 2020 cross the finish line this year?” the National Waterways Conference asked in its fall newsletter.
Waterways Council Inc. (WCI) was more direct as it referenced WRDA “unknowns” and the upcoming congressional break for the elections.
“The future of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2020 hangs in the balance,” WCI stated in the latest edition of its Capitol Currents newsletter.
Coronavirus Relief Bill
Talks continue on another coronavirus relief bill, but hope of getting it passed by Congress and signed into law by the president before the election took another hit.
“At this point, getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult just given where we are in the level of detail,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the administration’s lead negotiator.
Mnuchin again pushed for more targeted and immediate relief for certain parts of the economy while continuing to work on a more comprehensive package.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) continues to reject a piecemeal approach.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who mostly has been on the sidelines on the matter, served notice he would move ahead with a bill to provide targeted relief.
“When the full Senate returns on October 19, our first order of business will be voting again on targeted relief for American workers, including new funding for the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program),” McConnell said.
He and the president did not seem to be on the same page.
“Go big or go home,” Trump tweeted.
Florida And Section 404
The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking comment on Florida’s request to become only the third state to administer the Clean Water Act’s Section 404 and regulate discharge of dredged or fill material into waters within its jurisdiction.
Comments on both Section 404 and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act must be received by November 2 but also will be accepted during EPA’s virtual public hearings on October 21 and 27.
EPA’s decision is expected by December 17.
If approved, Florida’s bid will help advance a goal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to have more states and tribes administer Section 404.
Michigan and New Jersey have been the only two states to do so in the 43 years since the law was amended to provide for state and tribal assumption.
The Coast Guard published Marine Safety Information Bulletin 19-20 “Malicious email spoofing incidents” highlighting recent cyber events involving increasingly sophisticated malicious email spoofing techniques within the Marine Transportation System (MTS).
“Coast Guard units along with Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) regulated facilities and vessels should be on high alert and remain vigilant for similar cyber threats within your areas of responsibility,” stated a posting on a blog for mariners.
Reported spoofing attacks included impersonating Coast Guard email addresses and industry communications regarding Area Maritime Security Committee meetings.
Recommendations to MTS stakeholders included implementing Domain-based Message Authentication Report and Conformance (DMARC) for email protection and Information Technology (IT) Security Awareness training programs.
Boating Safety Council
The National Boating Safety Advisory Council and its subcommittees are scheduled to meet via teleconference November 5 to discuss matters relating to recreational boating safety.
Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 12 p.m. EDT.
Premeeting comments and supporting documentation must be submitted by October 22.
Teleconference lines will be limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
For additional information and to join the teleconference, contact Jeff Decker at 202-372-1507.