Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Guenther Urges Port Infrastructure Spending

Washington, D.C.—A top official with one of the nation’s largest ports urged Congress to prioritize waterways, ports and other transportation assets critical to the nation’s economy when providing federal infrastructure funds.

“We cannot wait,” Roger Guenther, Port Houston’s executive director, told the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Guenther cited investments ports already are making in their own facilities.

“But it must be a federal priority and federal obligation to make the capital investments on the waterside and the landside in our channels and highway infrastructure that serve our nation’s ports to maintain resilience and fluidity going forward,” he said.

Testifying in a hearing entitled “The State of Transportation and Supply Chain Challenges,” Guenther warned that the nation’s busiest supply chains will be vulnerable to future disruption without prioritizing funding.

He singled out the Houston Ship Channel, which he said has been underfunded by up to 60 percent for operations and maintenance over several years.

That has resulted in draft restrictions throughout the channel, Guenther said.

Kicking off the committee’s first hearing of the new Congress, Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said Congress must make sure the $1.2 trillion provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is directed toward making the nation’s transportation supply chain more efficient and resilient.

Debt Limit Talks

President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.) met at the White House and discussed the issue of raising the U.S. debt limit.

In its statement, the White House described their  conversation as “frank and straightforward.”

McCarthy described it as a “good conversation.”

“No agreements, no promises except we will continue this conversation,” he said, adding the Republicans remain united in wanting to curb spending.

“But we’re all Americans, and we all have to work together.”

Biden also agreed to continue the conversation, according to the White House.

“President Biden made clear that, as every other leader in both parties in Congress has affirmed, it is their shared duty not to allow an unprecedented and economically catastrophic default,” the White House stated.

“It is not negotiable or conditional.”

The White House added, “The president welcomes a separate discussion with congressional leaders about how to reduce the deficit and control the national debt while continuing to grow the economy.”

Expanding Ferry Service

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced $384.4 million in funding for expanding and improving the nation’s ferry service in communities across the country and accelerating the transition to zero-emission transportation.

“With these grants, we are improving and expanding ferry service in the communities that rely on waterways the most—often in more rural, remote regions—connecting people to jobs, services and city centers while cutting climate pollution,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.

Made available through three FTA competitive grant programs, the funding went to 11 states and one U.S. territory.

FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez said the announcement represents a record amount of support for U.S. transit ferries.

Facility Inspector Cyber Job Aid

The Coast Guard released its first update to Facility Inspector Job Aid that provides the service’s marine safety personnel and regulated maritime facilities updated guidance on cyber vulnerabilities as well as the perspective and tools needed to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

The Facility Inspector Cyber Job Aid is intended for use as a guide by Coast Guard facility inspectors for gaining familiarization with cyber activities at facilities regulated by the Maritime Transportation System Act (MTSA).

“It is important to keep in mind that the Facility Inspector Cyber Job Aid is not a substitute for applicable legal requirements and alone is not a single-source guide to compliance,” the Maritime Commons blog stated.

For additional information, contact Lt. Cmdr. Kelley Edwards at 202-795-6908 or Kelley.C.Edwards@uscg.mil.

Dam Repair Loans

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has sent out invitations to virtual information sessions on a new federal loan program to repair dams across the nation.

According to the Corps Water Infrastructure Financing Program (CWIFP), initial loan applications will be accepted by the Corps in the spring for up to $7.5 billion in credit assistance.

“We’d like you to be among our first borrowers,” the CWIFP staff stated in an invitation received by the National Waterways Conference.

Currently the virtual information sessions are scheduled for February 8 and March 1.

Registration forms were included in the invitation.

For additional information, contact CWIFP@usace.army.mil.

Wetland Plant List

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the availability of proposed changes to the National Wetland Plant List (NWPL), which provides plant species indicator status ratings used in determining whether the hydrophytic vegetation factor is met when conducting wetland delineations.

Other applications of the NWPL include wetland restoration and establishment and enhancement projects.

Comments must be submitted by March 21 and addressed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Attn: CECW–CO–R, 441 G St. NW, Washington, DC 20314-1000.

For additional information, contact Brianne McGuffie at 202-761-4750 or brianne.e.mcguffie@usace.army.mil.

Maritime Security Committee

The Coast Guard requested applications from individuals interested in serving on the Area Maritime Security Committee (AMSC), Eastern Great Lakes, the Northeast Ohio Region Subcommittee.

Due by February 13, the applications should be submitted to Captain of the Port, Buffalo, Attention: Lt. Cmdr. Katherine Peet, 1 Fuhrmann Blvd., Buffalo, N.Y. 14203-3189.

The committee assists the Captain of the Port as the Federal Maritime Security Coordinator, Buffalo, in developing, reviewing and updating the Area Maritime Security Plan for their area of responsibility.

Members of the AMSC should have at least five years of experience related to maritime or port security operations.

The Northeast Ohio Region Subcommittee of the Eastern Great Lakes AMSC has 31 members, and the current effort is to fill two subcommittee vacancies, an executive board member to serve as chairperson and an executive board member to serve as vice-chairperson.

Both will serve concurrently as a member of the Eastern Great Lakes AMSC.

For additional information or questions about submitting an application, contact Greg Fondran at 216-937-0136 or Greg.A.Fondran@uscg.mil.