Washington, D.C.—Escaping a “chopping block,” the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA 2020) made it into a massive package Congress passed to fund the government and provide coronavirus relief to the American people.
“What a day this has been!” the National Waterways Conference (NWC) exclaimed in a news alert crediting the actions of its members with saving the popular legislation.
According to the NWC alert, the 11th-hour drama grew out of concerns over changes to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, a major goal for some.
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) hailed the inclusion of its “long-sought reforms to more fairly allocate and spend revenues from the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT).”
“This historic, landmark legislation has been at the forefront of AAPA’s advocacy efforts for decades to improve America’s economy, infrastructure and competitiveness,” AAPA President and CEO Christopher Connor said.
Connor said the agreement allows the spending down of the roughly $9.3 billion balance in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), starting with $500 million in year one and an additional $100 million annual spending until the $1-billion amount is reached in year five.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said he was “particularly proud that this legislation achieves my decades-long mission to unlock the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.”
Waterways Council Inc. highlighted its top priority in the bill, to adjust the cost-share for Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) projects to 35 percent IWTF and 65 percent general revenues from the current 50-50 split through fiscal year 2031.
DeFazio also spoke of the importance of maintaining the record of passing a WRDA bill every two years.
Under the more than $1.4-trillion appropriations part of the package, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would receive $7.8 billion, a $145 million hike over the fiscal year 2020 level.
Investigations would be funded at $153 million, an increase of $2 million; construction, $2.69 billion, a hike of $11.6 million; operations and maintenance, $3.85 billion, an increase of $59.7 million.
Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund projects would receive $1.68 billion, a $50 million boost above the fiscal year 2020 level that meets the target set by WRDA 2014 and represents 92 percent of estimated revenues compared to the fiscal year 2021 target of 83 percent.
For the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, the bill makes full use of the estimated revenues, which includes a total appropriation of $113 million.
Nine new study starts and seven new construction starts are provided for in the bill.
In the transportation section of the package, funding for BUILD program remains the same at $1 billion.
Funding for the Maritime Administration comes to $1.2 billion, $122 million above the fiscal year 2020 level.
For the Maritime Security Program, the legislation provides $314 million, $14 million above the 2020 level; $10 million for the Cable Security Fleet, a $10 million increase; $230 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program, a $5 million boost; and $390 million for schoolship construction, an increase of $90 million.
In the homeland security section, $12.84 billion is provided for the Coast Guard, $878.8 million above the fiscal year 2020 level, including $2.26 billion for “significant new investments” such as continued support for the Offshore Patrol Cutter programs, Fast Response Cutters and a second Polar Security Cutter.
Totaling roughly $900 billion, the coronavirus relief section of the package includes $600 direct payment checks, capped at $75,000 income for individuals and $150,000 for married couples, and a $300 weekly enhanced jobless benefit through March 14.
Other provisions provide for the renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program with expanded eligibility, targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) advance grants for smaller businesses, updates to the Employee Retention Tax Credit to keep workers in jobs and extension of rental assistance and eviction moratorium.
Representing an agreement that broke a months-long stalemate in Congress, the relief legislation was folded into the massive package that runs more than 5,500 pages.
It passed the Senate 92 to 6, the House 359 to 53 and is expected be signed by President Donald Trump.
CWA In Florida
Florida became the first state in more than 25 years and only the third state in history to take over its Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 program, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced.
Previously only Michigan and New Jersey have achieved that status, which transfers permitting authority under the CWA from the U.S. Corps of Engineers over a broad range of water resources within their borders, such as permitting dredged or fill material to be discharged into waters of the United States.
“Federal authorities don’t delegate this type of permit often, but Florida has, beyond question, one of the greatest environmental records of any state, and I couldn’t be happier that Florida has shown it can meet the strict national standards EPA sets to protect human health and the environment,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said.
EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary Walker called the development a “monumental milestone.”
Detention And Demurrage
Federal Maritime Commissioner Rebecca Dye is advising that shippers and truckers may share with her agency’s Bureau of Enforcement (BoE) allegations of ocean carriers and marine terminal operators employing practices or regulations that do not comply with a new rule addressing detention and demurrage.
Allegations and supporting evidence can be submitted by writing BOE@FMC.gov.
Since publishing its interpretive rule in April, the agency reported receiving feedback critical of the level of compliance shown to the rule.
A new maritime strategy that focuses on China and Russia’s increasing maritime aggressiveness was released by the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
“China’s and Russia’s revisionist approaches in the maritime environment threaten U.S. interests, undermine alliances and partnerships and degrade the free and open international order,” states the document entitled “Advantage at Sea.”
“Moreover, China’s and Russia’s aggressive naval growth and modernization are eroding U.S. military advantages.”
Emphasizing the role maritime domain plays in the security and prosperity of the U.S. and all nations, the strategy also lays out how sea services will prevail in day-to-day competition, crisis and conflict over the next decade and directs continued robust cooperation with allies.