Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Senate Bill Contains Record Civil Works Spending

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would receive more than $8 billion under fiscal year 2022 spending measures approved by the House and the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, said the $8.7 billion—a $906 million hike over fiscal year 2021—in the Senate bill represents a record level of funding for the Corps’ civil works program.

Before the committee’s 25-5 vote on the bill, however, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnåell (R-Ky.) warned it and two others advanced by the panel would never make it out of the Senate.

McConnell blamed the lack of bipartisan agreements on a top-line budget figure, allocations for individual spending bills and both legacy and new policy riders.

 “That’s not going to fly on the Senate floor, and we all know it,” he said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee’s chairman, conceded the panel was not following traditional order.

Leahy noted the expiration of the Budget Control Act for fiscal year 2022, leaving no spending caps in law and the absence of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations over such matters with the White House.

Still, with the end of the current fiscal year rapidly approaching, he said the committee should do its work.

Funding for the Corps was approved by the House by a vote of 219 to 208 as part of a seven-bill appropriations minibus that also includes funding for the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Infrastructure Bill

After again easily advancing the historic measure with a vote of 66 to 28, the Senate spent several days voting on amendments to a bipartisan trillion-dollar infrastructure proposal that includes $17 billion for water infrastructure.

By a voice vote, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) won approval of his amendment to help small and disadvantaged communities qualify for assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has vowed to keep senators in Washington until the bill is done, praised his chamber’s approach to what he described as an open amendment process.

As of Wednesday night, Schumer said the Senate has considered 22 amendments with 12 winning approval.

Of the 22 amendments, he said, 13 were introduced by Republicans.

Amendments covered a wide range of topics, such as Indian health care and broadband mapping.

WOTUS Outreach

Two federal agencies announced a series of meetings and other outreach efforts in the coming weeks to seek input from stakeholders and the public as part of the Biden administration’s plan to revise the definition of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS).

They also explained that process will include two rulemakings, one to restore pre-2015 regulations defining WOTUS with updates relevant to Supreme Court decisions, and another to build upon that regulatory foundation.

Web conferences have been scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. EasternAugust 18, 25 and 31, 1 p.m. Eastern August 23 and 6 p.m. Eastern August 26 with an additional session possible at 2 p.m. Eastern September 2.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also stated they will be accepting written comments from the public with more opportunities for engagement to follow, such as 10 geographically focused roundtables for discussions with a full spectrum of stakeholders.

Registration instructions can be found at https://www.epa.gov/wotus/public-outreach-and-stakeholder-engagement-activities.

Written recommendations must be received by September 3 and may be submitted via https://www.regulations.gov.

State and tribal co-regulators also will be engaged, the two agencies stated.

For additional information, contact Damaris Christensen of EPA at 202-564-2281 and Stacey Jensen of the Corps at 703-459-6026.

Navigable Waters Rule

Led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Republicans continue to press the Biden administration on its bid to replace the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR).

Joined by a group of her Republicans colleagues, Capito sent a letter to the EPA and the Corps seeking additional clarity on the agencies’ efforts.

She also introduced legislation to codify the Trump-era NWPR, an effort that currently seems doomed given Democrats’ control of both Congress and the White House.

Training Program Updates

The National Maritime Center (NMC) provided updates on training courses and programs, urging Mariner Training Providers (MTPs) to submit renewal requests early.

“The inventory of course and program approval requests is high,” the NMC stated.

“It is taking 90 days or more for our staff to begin reviewing a request.”

It also said the last automatic course and program extensions, based on COVID-19, expired June 30 and added MTPs should address individual extension needs by e-mailing NMCCourses@uscg.mil.

Noting that the Coast Guard’s transition to a computer program has impacted operations, the NMC said those who have not received a response to an email within 10 business days should reach out to the agency.

For additional information, contact the NMC Customer Service Center by e-mailing IASKNMC@uscg.mil or calling 1-888-IASKNMC (427-5662).

PFD Standards

The Coast Guard published Policy Letter 02-21 to continue efforts to harmonize Personal Floatation Device (PFD) standards in cooperation with Transport Canada (TC) and members of the U.S. and Canadian PFD community.

After determining that an inherently buoyant Level 100 lifejacket that meets the requirements of ANSI/CAN/UL 12402-4 provides equivalent performance to a non-standard lifejacket meeting the requirements of 46 CFR 160.055, the Coast Guard stated it will accept this new harmonized standard as a basis for approval.

Level 100 lifejackets are intended for commercial vessels not subject to SOLAS and may be used to meet lifejacket carriage requirements on recreational vessels.

Policy Letter 02-21 can be found at https://www.dco.uscg.mil/ENG/Policy/.

Great Lakes Pilotage

The Great Lakes Pilotage Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet September 1 in Cape Vincent, N.Y., to discuss matters related to Great Lakes pilotage, regulations and policies.

Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 8 a.m. Eastern at the Saint Lawrence Seaway Pilots’ Association conference facility, 230 N Point St., Cape Vincent, N.Y. 13618.

Comments and supporting documentations should be submitted by August 24 to ensure they are received before the meeting and can be submitted at https://www.regulations.gov.

For additional information, contact Vincent Berg at 202-906-0835.