Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Kaskaskia River Designated As Marine Highway Route

Washington, D.C.—The Maritime Administration (MarAd) announced the designation of a new marine highway route, two new marine highway projects and a project designation extension to benefit supply chains in several states.

MarAd made the announcement as part of the America’s Marine Highway Program (AMHP), which supports the increased use of the nation’s navigable waterways.

While supply chain efficiency will have nationwide effects, MarAd said, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, California and Oregon will receive new routes, designations or extensions.

MarAd’s announcement includes:

• Designation of M-3 Kaskaskia River in Illinois as a marine highway route, which will include existing freight traffic between the terminals on the Kaskaskia River and the Mississippi River and in turn open new opportunities to leverage private investment through public and private partnerships and support supply chain resiliency efforts.

• Designation as marine highway project the Lake Michigan M-90 Marine Highway Shortcut, which supports an existing ferry service that transports both freight vehicles and passengers across Lake Michigan between Ludington, Mich., and Manitowoc, Wis.; and Northwest Connect, which will serve the M-5 marine highway route transporting containerized freight to and from Alaska, Hawaii and Washington.

• Project designation extension of M-5 coastal connector in Oregon, which will strengthen the supply chain link across multiple states.

“Investments in the America’s Marine Highway Program help us move more goods more quickly and more efficiently to the American people, supporting our supply chains even while they continue to come under pressure from pandemic-driven disruptions,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who called MarAd’s announcement an important step in the administration’s Port Action Plan to strengthen supply chains, modernize port operations and combat inflation.

Touting Infrastructure Spending

President Biden took his road show on infrastructure investments to Portsmouth, N.H., to highlight his administration’s effort to modernize the nation’s ports and waterways.

Speaking at the New Hampshire Port Authority, Biden said the port was a perfect example of how the nation comes out of every crisis stronger than it was.

He pointed to the important shipments that go in and out of the local terminals, such as salt to de-ice the roads and home heating oil used in the state.

“Recently, this port has been an important link to more construction equipment and materials for a $2.3 billion project that I’ve authorized in Portsmouth Naval Shipyard,” Biden said.

U.S. To Appeal Mask Ruling

The Biden administration decided to appeal a ruling by a federal judge in Florida that killed a travel mask mandate issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“It is CDC’s continuing assessment that at this time an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health,” the agency stated, giving the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) the green light to file the appeal.

“CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within CDC’s legal authority to protect health.”

One day earlier, DOJ said it disagreed with the judge’s ruling but would appeal only if the CDC concluded that its mask mandate was still necessary for the public health.

Possibly more critical to DOJ was the legal precedent the judge’s ruling would set on the authority Congress provided CDC to protect the public health.

“That is an important authority the department will continue to work to preserve,” DOJ stated.

Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle’s ruling on the mask mandate, which caught many off guard, and the responses from industry and local and state governments appear to have led to more confusion on when and where Americans need to mask up.

NEPA Regulations

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced a targeted Phase 1 rule restoring three basic elements of its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, including a reaffirmation that federal agencies must evaluate climate change and other environmental impacts during their reviews.

CEQ said its action specifically restores longstanding provisions modified during the Trump administration, adding those 2020 changes triggered implementation challenges for agencies and sowed confusion for stakeholders and the public.

“Restoring these basic community safeguards will provide regulatory certainty, reduce conflict and help ensure that projects get built right the first time,” said CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory.

“Patching these holes in the environmental review process will help projects get built faster, be more resilient and provide greater benefits to people who live nearby.”

Over the coming months, CEQ said a Phase 2 NEPA rulemaking will be proposed.

Democrats in Congress welcomed CEQ’s news while Republicans opposed it.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned CEQ’s action will make it harder to lower gas prices, invest in clean energy and build modern infrastructure.

“It should never take longer to get federal approval for an infrastructure project than it takes to build the project,” said Marty Durbin, the chamber’s senior vice president of policy.

Maritime Security Committee

The National Maritime Security Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet May 3-4 via teleconference to discuss enhancing the sharing of information related to cybersecurity risks that may cause a transportation security incident and other matters.

Open to the public, the committee is set to meet at 1 p.m. EDT on May 3 and 9 a.m. EDT on May 4.

Comments and supporting documentation should be submitted no later than April 22 to ensure they will be received before the teleconference.

The number of teleconference lines will be limited and available on a first come, first-served basis.

For additional information or to request special accommodation, contact Ryan Owens at 202-302-6565.