Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Committees Hold Hearings For WRDA 2022

Washington, D.C.—Two key congressional committees kicked off their new year with same-day hearings on a 2022 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), and the commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged the significance of $22 billion provided to his agency in recent months.

“This is a historic level of investment in the Army Corps of Engineers,” Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon said, referring to $17 billion in the bipartisan infrastructure law and another $5.7 billion in a disaster relief measure.

“We absolutely have to deliver on this historic level of investment.”

Spellmon gave the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee his commitment the Corps will use every tool available to get projects in the ground.

Inland waterways already have won the attention of recently confirmed Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor.

Responding to questions during the hearing, he described inland waterways as a “very high aspect of the overall Corps of Engineers program.”

Connor specifically singled out the role navigable inland waterways play in the nation’s supply chain, which has become a major focus of President Biden and his administration.

In his opening remarks, Connor laid out the administration’s focus on increasing infrastructure and ecosystem resilience to climate change, decreasing climate risk for communities and promoting environmental justice to disadvantaged, underserved and rural communities.

Both Connor and Spellmon also appeared before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

Traditionally, WRDAs garner bipartisan support, and members of both parties expressed strong support for passing a bill this year and maintaining a years-long record of approving a WRDA every two years.

Inspection Fees

The Coast Guard has proposed updating its user fees for seagoing towing vessels that are 300 gross tons or more and revising user fees for other inspected towing vessels.

“We are required to establish and maintain a fair fee for our vessel inspection services and to separate the fees for inspection options that involve third-party auditors and surveyors from inspection options that do not involve third parties,” the Coast Guard stated in the Federal Register.

Under the proposed rule, vessels using the Alternate Compliance Program, Streamlined Inspection Program or the Towing Safety Management System

(TSMS) options would pay a lower fee than vessels that use the traditional Coast Guard inspection option.

Comments and related material must be received by April 11 and may be submitted via the federal portal at www.regulations.gov.

For additional information including alternate means for submitting comments, contact Scott Kuhaneck at 202-372-1221.

The American Waterways Operators (AWO) announced it will be working with its Towing Vessel Inspection Working Group to prepare comments by the April 11 deadline.

According to AWO, the Coast Guard has proposed an annual fee of $973 for towing vessels using the TSMS option and $2,184 for those using the Coast Guard option.

Currently, AWO said, towing vessels inspected under Subchapter M are charged an annual fee of $1,030.

AWO also said it continues to pursue legislation establishing a moratorium on user fees for towing vessels using the TSMS option until the Coast Guard rulemaking establishing a differential fee structure is finalized.

Supply Chain Committee

The Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness, which advises the U.S. Commerce secretary, is scheduled to meet via Webex January 20.

Open to the public with limited space available on a first-come, first-served basis, the meeting is set to begin at noon EST.

Its agenda includes supply chain resilience and congestion, trade and competitiveness, freight movement and policy, finance and infrastructure and workforce development.

For additional information, including on participating in the meeting, contact Richard Boll at richard.boll@trade.gov no later than 24 hours before the meeting.

That same email address can be used to submit written comments at any time.

Civil Monetary Penalties

The Department of Homeland Security filed a final rule to make the 2022 annual inflation adjustment to its civil monetary penalties along with those for components including the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Required by a 2015 law, the new rule took effect January 11.

For additional information, contact Hillary Hunnings at 202-282-9043.

USMMA System Of Records

As required by law, the Maritime Administration (MarAd) announced plans to establish a new system of records for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) to process reasonable accommodation requests from USMMA students and accepted applicants based on religious beliefs, including requests to decline vaccinations.

Comments will be accepted until January 26, the date the routine uses become effective.

MarAd stated it may publish an amended System of Records Notice in response to comments received.

Comments may be submitted via www.regulations.gov, email at Rulemakings.MARAD@dot.gov or by mail or hand delivery at Docket Management Facility; U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Room W12–140, Washington, DC 20590.

For additional information, contact Karyn Gorman at 202-366-3140.

Offshore Safety Committee

The Coast Guard is resoliciting applications to fill a vacancy on the National Offshore Safety Advisory Committee (NOSAC) representing employees in offshore operations.

Applications should reach the Coast Guard by February 11.

An initial request was published on March 17, and applicants who responded to that request need not reapply.

Established by a 2018 law, NOSAC advises the Homeland Security secretary on the exploration of offshore mineral and energy resources.

For additional information, contact Patrick Clark at 202-372-1358.