Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Biden Infrastructure Plan Will Be Detailed In February

Washington, D.C.—President Joe Biden said he will wait until his State of the Union address next month to lay out details for “historic investments” in infrastructure, clean energy and other key areas.

“It’s time to stop talking about infrastructure and finally start  building it,” Biden said in a pre-inaugural speech on a two-step plan of rescue and recovery for the nation. “Millions of good paying jobs that put Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges and ports to make them more climate resilient, to make it faster, cheaper and cleaner to transport American-made goods across our country and around the world.”

Infrastructure will be included in the plan’s second step, called  the Build Back Better Recovery Plan, which picks up a major theme promoted by his campaign.

He named the plan’s first step the American Rescue Plan, which calls for additional pandemic relief, such as boosting direct payments for Americans to $2,000, providing $400 per week in jobless benefits, flexible grants to small businesses, aid to local governments and a $15-per-hour minimum wage.

That plan comes in at around $1.9 trillion, which is expected to be a difficult number for Republicans when they may be dealing with a Senate trial on the House-passed impeachment of former President Donald Trump.

Keystone XL Pipeline Canceled

On his first day in office, President Biden signed a stack of executive orders, including one revoking a presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, where reports indicated work has been suspended in anticipation of the new president’s action.

Trump granted the permit in 2019.

In his revocation order, Biden cited a 2015 review by the Obama administration that concluded the pipeline would have limited significance on the nation’s energy security and economy and stressed the development of a clean energy economy.

Supporters of the pipeline expressed disappointment.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) described it as a “sad day for the future of American energy independence.”

Other first-day actions taken by Biden covered other issues such as a mask mandate for federal facilities, the Paris Climate Agreement and immigration.

Corps Work Plan

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delivered to Congress its Work Plan for the Fiscal Year 2021 civil works program less than a month after then-President Trump signed into law the massive omnibus funding bill that provided $7.3 billion to the Corps for investigations, construction, operation and maintenance, Mississippi River and Tributaries and the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP).

Of that amount, the law’s Statement of Managers report allocates roughly $5.1 billion to specific programs, projects and activities, leaving the Corps with allocating about $2.3 billion.

The newly released Work Plan includes those allocations.

“I greatly appreciate the additional funding to put toward water-related infrastructure to support the national economy, public  safety and environmental health of this great nation during an unprecedented time,” said R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

Users Board Meeting Set

The Inland Waterways Users Board is scheduled to conduct an online virtual meeting February 9.

Set to begin at 9 a.m., the open meeting can be accessed at https://usace1.webex.com/meet/ndc.nav, Public Call-in: USA Toll-Free 844-800-2712, USA Caller Paid/ International Toll: 1–669-234-1177 Access Code: 199 117 3596, Security Code 1234.

Items on the agenda include the status of fiscal year 2021 funding for inland and coastal navigation; status of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), annual report for 2020, and the inland waterways Capital Investment Strategy activities; updates of future IWTF projects currently in Preconstruction, Engineering and Design (PED) phase for Three Rivers, Arkansas, Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) and Upper Ohio River navigation; status of construction activities for the Monongahela River Locks and Dams 2, 3, and 4 Project, the Chickamauga Lock Project and the Kentucky Lock Project; and updates for Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (IHNC) Lock and Bayou Sorrel Lock.

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

National Security Vessels

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) authorized the construction of two additional National Security Multi-Mission Vessels (NSMV), which will replace aging training vessels at Maine Maritime Academy, Castine, Maine; and Texas A&M Maritime Academy, Galveston, Texas.

Previously, MarAd authorized the construction of the first two NSMVs, which are destined for SUNY Maritime College in Bronx, N.Y., and Massachusetts Maritime Academy, in Bourne.

“The NSMV is part of a strategy to bolster maritime education, revitalize U.S. shipbuilding and provide a much-needed shot in the arm to the U.S. maritime industry,” said MarAd Chief Counsel Doug Burnett, who is acting in lieu of the administrator.

“America must be a maritime nation if it is to continue to lead the world in this century,” he said.

With this authorization, MarAd said, recapitalization of the nation’s aging maritime training fleet is nearly complete.

 Construction of all authorized vessels at Philly Shipyard Inc. will also strengthen America’s industrial base while supporting more than 1,200 jobs in Philadelphia, Pa., the agency stated.

In May 2019, MarAd awarded TOTE Services LLC a contract to be the Vessel Construction Manager for the NSMV program, and in April 2020, TOTE Services awarded Philly Shipyard Inc. a contract to construct up to five NSMVs with fixed prices and schedules.

The Coast Guard is seeking public input as its evaluates the potential use of Safety Management Systems (SMSs) to improve safety and reduce marine casualties on board U.S.- flagged passenger vessels.

Comments must be received by the Coast Guard by April 15.

For additional information, contact Lt. Kimberly Gates at 202-372-1455.

Rec Vessel Documentation Extension

The Coast Guard has issued a final rule extending the validity of a recreational vessel endorsement on a Certificate of Documentation (COD) from one to five years to decrease the burden on recreational vessel owners.

Effective February 18, the rule was required by a 2018 law.

For additional information, contact Ronald Teague at 304-271-2506.