Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Bipartisan, Bicameral Agreement Reached On Omnibus Spending Framework

Washington, D.C.—Congressional leaders announced a bipartisan, bicameral agreement has been reached on a “framework” that could lead to an omnibus spending bill for the rest of fiscal year 2022. That announcement followed House approval of yet another stopgap spending bill to keep federal agencies funded through March 11.

Passed by a 272-162 vote, H.R. 6617, the Further Additional Extending Government Funding Act, now awaits action in the Senate.

The current continuing resolution expires February 18.

Specific figures were not immediately announced, but the framework was treated as a major breakthrough.

“I am pleased that we have reached agreement on a framework, which will allow our subcommittees to get to work finalizing an omnibus,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, described the framework as a “strong, bipartisan” agreement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) welcomed the announcement.

In addition to providing funding for the last half of fiscal year 2022 and allowing changes in the law that cannot be made under a stopgap measure, Pelosi said an omnibus “will also unlock the increased funding included in our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will transform our roads, bridges, water systems, airports, broadband.”

WRDA Priorities

A key House chairman served notice the nation’s harbors and ports will be a major focus as his panel continues to identify priorities for the upcoming Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2022.

“We are starting the WRDA 2022 process at a critical time,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“The global pandemic and the surge in consumer demand have shown the vulnerability of our overburdened ports. We must be investing more in our nation’s ports and harbors in order to keep America competitive in the global economy.”

DeFazio cited the $17 billion the recently enacted bipartisan infrastructure law provided the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for port, harbors and inland waterways across the country.

He included his comments in an opening statement at a hearing held by his panel’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment on stakeholder priorities for the forthcoming WRDA.

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), the subcommittee’s chair, joined DeFazio in pointing out that a 2022 law will be the fifth WRDA passed on a biennial basis since 2014.

During the hearing, the subcommittee heard from Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach; Michel Bechtel, president of the Gulf Coast Protection District; Jim Middaugh, executive director of the Multnomah County Drainage District, Wade Crowfoot, California’s secretary of the Natural Resources Agency; Peter Yucupicio, chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona; and Darrell Seki Sr., chairman of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians of Minnesota. 

Levee Workshops

So far, more than 300 stakeholders have joined the first four virtual public workshops on developing a new framework on managing reliable levee systems and improving community resilience in areas behind levees, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is coordinating on the events with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Several more workshops have been scheduled through February 24. Pre-registration is required for the workshops, which are limited to 100 participants.

For additional information, visit www.leveesafety.org/pages/get-involved.

A new program that differs from the Corps’ traditional levee activities, the National Levee Safety Program “aims to support all stakeholders who are responsible for, are impacted by, or have interest in levees and flood risk management in the United States.”

“This is an exciting time to be at the ground level as we build this program, and we highly encourage stakeholders to sign up for a virtual workshop to learn more about the program and how they can continue to stay involved,” said Tammy Conforti, National Levee Safety Program lead.

Ballast Water Investigation

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is seeking updated comments in support of its ongoing investigation into whether Canadian ballast water regulations in the Great Lakes are unfavorable to shipping in the U.S.-Canada trade.

A deadline for submitting comments is expected to be 30 days after the FMC request is published in the Federal Register.

Specifically, the FMC wants comments on a final rule issued by the Canadians last June that takes effect in 2024 but exempts compliance until 2030 for vessels built prior to January 1, 2009.

The FMC launched its investigation June 2020 in response to a petition filed by the Lake Carriers’ Association, a trade group made up of vessel owners and operators in the Great Lakes.

That petition alleges that the Canadian regulations serve no environmental purpose, are prohibitively expensive to comply with and are designed to drive U.S. flag vessels from the market.

The FMC’s investigating authority allows it to take regulatory actions if it finds that a foreign government’s regulations create unfavorable conditions to shipping in foreign trade.

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation Advisory Board has scheduled a series of meetings to be held on March 1, May 24, September 6 and November 15.

Open to the public, the meetings are set to begin at 2 p.m. Eastern on each of those dates.

Requests to speak during the meetings, submit written materials to be reviewed during the meetings and for accommodations to a disability must be received by February 22, May 17, August 30 and November 8.

For additional information, contact Martin Welles at 315-764-3231.

NMC Deadline Extensions

The National Maritime Center (NMC) said it has issued the extensions on courses and programs announced in a bulletin dated January 13 and instructed mariners to address questions to NMCCourses@uscg.mil.

Noting the number of requests requiring additional information, the NMC provided a list of common issues that generate such requests.

It also cited the regulatory references and other information available on the Policy and Regulations page on its website.

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

Assessor, Examiner Applications

The National Maritime Center said a significant number of original and renewal requests for qualification as a qualified assessor (QA) or designated examiner (DE) require additional information before they can be processed.

The NMC also said requests for qualification as a QA or DE should be submitted in accordance with the instructions on the NMC website’s Training and Assessment page, not with an application for a Merchant Mariner Credential.

In addition to the NMC website, information on regulatory requirements and Coast Guard policy regarding qualification as a QA or DE can be found at 46 CFR 10.405 and Navigation Vessel Inspection Circulars (NVIC) 19-14 and 03-16.

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