Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Inland Waterways Users Board Remains In Limbo

Washington, D.C.—One year after it was suspended and its members dismissed, the broadly supported Inland Waterways Users Board (IWUB) remains in limbo months after it was approved to resume operations.

“The recommended memberships for the Inland Waterways Users Board are awaiting approval by the Office of the Secretary of Defense,” said Eugene Pawlik, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We are optimistic the new members will be appointed soon.”

Pawlik said the Corps then will restart regular operations of the IWUB, schedule its next meeting and publish an agenda.

“We look forward to that federal advisory committee getting back to work on critical matters related to the inland waterways,” he said.

Pawlik’s comments, a response to an inquiry from The Waterways Journal, come at least four months after the Department of Defense said the IWUB had been approved to resume operations.

Along with more than three dozen advisory boards, the IWUB was caught up in what is believed to be an unprecedented move.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the suspension in a January 30, 2021, memo that also called for a zero-based review of the boards.

Initial news coverage of Austin’s order focused on appointments to other boards by the Trump administration.

IWUB supporters immediately called for its return to active status, emphasizing the critical role it plays.

A legislated committee subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the IWUB never seemed to be in danger of being eliminated, a move that would have required congressional action.

In previous statements, Pawlik offered assurances there were no plans to even revamp the IWUB.

During his confirmation hearing in July, Michael Connor, President Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, said he would reinforce the importance of the IWUB with the Defense secretary so it could be reactivated as quickly as possible.

Connor was confirmed on November 4.

WOTUS Rulemaking

Two leading Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee urged the Biden administration to halt its rulemaking on the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) after the U.S. Supreme Court accepted a case focused on the WOTUS definition.

Reps. Sam Graves of Missouri, the panel’s ranking member, and David Rouzer of North Carolina, the ranking member of its Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, said they welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision and the opportunity to provide certainty for those who have to live under the WOTUS rule.

“Given this significant development, the Biden administration should immediately cease its efforts to issue a new WOTUS definition rule that will greatly broaden the federal government’s jurisdiction over privately owned land and add layers of red tape for farmers, builders, small businesses, local governments and many Americans.”

Graves and Rouzer also wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting an extension of at least 90 days to the public comment period on their rulemaking effort.

Currently the comment period is to end February 7.

Levee Safety Committee

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is soliciting applications to fill non-federal stakeholder positions on the Committee on Levee Safety to advise the Corps and the Federal Emergency Management Agency on aspects of developing the National Levee Safety Program.

Applications must be submitted by March 22.

They may be submitted by email at hq-leveesafety@usace.army.mil or mailed to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg District, ATTN: Levee Safety Center—RM 221, 4155 East Clay St., Vicksburg, Miss. 39183.

The committee will be composed of 14 voting members from state, local, regional and tribal governments as well as the private sector.

One state representative must come from each of the geographical boundaries of the following eight civil works divisions of the Corps: Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, Mississippi Valley Division, North Atlantic Division, Northwestern Division, Pacific Ocean Division, South Atlantic Division and South Pacific Division.

For additional information, contact Tammy Conforti at 202-365-6586.

Lower Missouri Flooding

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), were among a dozen members of Congress to write a letter urging Michael Connor, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, to prioritize funding from a new infrastructure law for flood mitigation and prevention projects along the lower Missouri River.

“Flooding in the Lower Missouri River Basin is a danger to Iowans and severely disrupts Iowa’s agriculture, manufacturing and shipping industries,” Grassley said in a statement.

“When I voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, I was voting for exactly this type of federal support for critical infrastructure that Iowans depend on.”

NMC Processing

The National Maritime Center (NMC) reported that on average more than half of the 50,000 annual applications for Merchant Mariner Credentials (MMCs) arrive with incomplete or missing information resulting in delayed processing and frustrated mariners.

In 2021, the NMC stated 66,796 awaiting information (AI) reasons were issued for MMC applications.

To prevent delays, the NMC recommends applying at least 90 days in advance, adding that renewals can be submitted up to eight months early with no change between expiration and renewal dates; using Regional Exam Centers and Monitoring Units to review applications before submission; and using the tools and resources on the NMC website.

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

 CG Workforce Planning

Although safe operation of vessels is critical to the maritime sector, which annually contributes $5.4 trillion to the U.S. economy, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the supply of marine inspectors consistently fails to meet the estimated need.

The GAO pointed to the Coast Guard’s collection and analysis of limited data to forecast future workforce and industry trends that could affect the supply and demand for marine inspectors.

“For example, the Coast Guard collects industry data to forecast workforce needs for certain vessel types (e.g., cruise ships) but not others (e.g., freight vessels),” the GAO stated.

The GAO said the Coast Guard’s workforce improvement plan that includes initiatives to address such decades-long challenges remains in varying stages of completion.

As part of its study, which was included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021, the GAO made a handful of recommendations to boost the Coast Guard’s workforce planning efforts.

The Department of Homeland Security concurred with those recommendations, the GAO reported.