Washington, D.C.—With a boost from the White House, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the studies, projects and programs it will implement in fiscal year 2022 with the historic $22.81 billion in supplemental funding provided by two recently enacted laws.
A separate White House fact sheet stated the Corps will invest $14 billion to “strengthen port and waterway supply chains and bolster climate resilience.”
More than 500 projects across 52 states and territories will be funded.
According to the Corps, future announcements will cover spending in subsequent years, but those will continue to support the administration’s goals of expanding access to America’s ports through dredging as well as building resilience, benefitting economically disadvantaged communities and advancing environmental justice.
The White House highlighted the Corps’ commitment of $4 billion to expand capacity at key ports, allow passage of larger vessels and enhance the movement of goods.
“America’s waterways are vital to getting goods moving faster and more efficiently through the nation,” the White House stated.
It singled out plans to spend $858 million to support the replacement of locks on the upper Ohio River, west of Pittsburgh, and $470 million to complete construction of a new lock along St. Mary’s River in Sault Saint Marie, Mich.
According to the Corps, funds will be provided to complete 15 feasibility studies, the preconstruction engineering and design (PED) phase of five projects and 19 construction projects in fiscal year 2022.
Additionally, 22 new projects will be funded in the construction account.
The National Waterways Conference highlighted the funds in the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: construction, $11.615 billion, including $1.5 billion for harbors and navigation channels and $2.5 billion for inland waterways; operation and maintenance, $4 billion to be divided up over three fiscal years–$2 billion for FY 2022, $1 billion each for FY23 and FY24; Mississippi River and Tributaries, $808 million, including $550 million for studies, construction, operations and maintenance and $258 million to address emergency situations.
Waterways Council Inc. President and CEO Tracy Zea welcomed the announcement.
Zea said the release of inland waterways infrastructure funds will not only advance the inland waterways construction portfolio but also create thousands of skilled jobs for America’s building trades, make American farmers more competitive and promote energy security.
Build Back Better
Conceding his massive Build Back Better proposal remains stalled in the Senate, President Joe Biden suggested he could get it passed by splitting it up.
“I’m confident we can get pieces, big chunks of the Build Back Better … signed into law,” Biden said when pressed by a reporter about his confidence in getting anything signed into law before this year’s midterm elections.
Later in his nearly two-hour press conference, the president was asked again about the future of his Build Back Better proposal.
“Well, it’s clear to me that, that we’re going to have to probably break it up,” Biden said, adding he has been talking to his colleagues in Congress.
“I think it’s clear that we would be able to get support for the, for the 500-plus billion dollars for energy and the environmental issues that are there,” the president said.
When the topic was raised again, Biden expressed doubt that two “big components” he supports—the Child Care Tax Credit and help with cost of community college—could be included in a pared-down Build Back Better proposal.
When the Build Back Better Act narrowly passed the House last year, it carried a price tag of roughly $1.7 trillion, which included millions more for maritime infrastructure on top of the $17 billion in the new bipartisan infrastructure law.
CBP Staffing At Ports
A key House subcommittee held a hearing on the state of the nation’s seaports that focused on long-running staffing issues of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the lead agency on facilitating trade and travel at ports of entry.
Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation & Operations, noted that CBP officers were being detailed to land ports of entry.
“Even with the redirected staff, seaports were paying for additional overtime and services through the Reimbursable Services Program,” said Barragan, whose district includes the Port of Los Angeles.
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), the panel’s ranking member, used his opening statement to emphasize the challenges of the nation’s smaller ports that may not receive the attention of the media and the government given to larger ports.
Christopher Connor, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, testified at the hearing.
Connor described the unprecedented requirements necessitated from seaports through the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also spoke of the staffing issues and the overtime expenses seaports face.
“We ask Congress to fully staff CBP to ensure an effective workforce and efficient cargo movement,” Connor said in his written statement.
NMC Course Approvals
The National Maritime Center (NMC) said the inventory of course and program approval requests remains high, and its staff will begin evaluating requests more than 90 days after they are submitted.
The NMC also announced several other actions:
• All courses and programs expiring between January 31 and October 31 will be extended, and new expiration dates will be assigned to mitigate the unequal distribution of court expirations.
In the coming weeks, training providers can expect an update approval certificate to be emailed, the NMC stated, adding the email and the certificate will serve as documentation of the extension.
• Courses and programs awaiting evaluation at the NMC will also be extended. However, the NMC said it will continue to process those requests and will assign new expiration dates in the approval letter.
• Training providers are encouraged to submit renewal requests at least 90 days before the expiration date. However, the NMC requested renewals not be submitted before July 1, 2022, unless a significant modification is required in conjunction with the renewal.
Significant changes to a curriculum must be approved by the NMC.
• Training providers should continue to submit original and modification requests in accordance with regulation and policy. The NMC website contains additional guidance including checklists.
Training providers are encouraged to contact the agency with questions and concerns at NMCCourses@uscg.mil or by calling 304-433-3720.
For additional information, contact the NMC Customer Service Center by e-mailing IASKNMC@uscg.mil or calling 1-888-IASKNMC (427-5662).