Washington, D.C.—Key stakeholders urged a Senate committee to use the next Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) to reform Project Partnership Agreements (PPAs) with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to bring more fairness to that process and boost non-federal partners.
“We believe that a more equitable approach to these relationships will improve efficiencies in project delivery, improve partnership relationships and stimulate the nation’s ability to leverage non-federal resources,” said Kirsten Wallace, executive director of the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association. Wallace told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee she also was speaking on behalf of the Interstate Council on Water Policy.
Jimmy Hague, senior water policy adviser for The Nature Conservancy, and Bren Haase, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Board and executive assistant to Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, also testified.
According to testimony, a major impediment is a provision that requires non-federal sponsors to assume complete liability for constructed projects and their operations and maintenance in perpetuity. In addition to a one-sided approach on risk that is unsustainable, Wallace said, such provisions conflict with laws in as many as 22 states.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the committee, noted the Corps has made dramatic changes to the PPA process since 2012 to provide consistency and fair treatment to stakeholders.
“Ultimately, it is our job in Congress to ensure that federal investments are protected,” Carper said. “At the same time, we must also ensure that non-federal stakeholders can support the projects and are not made to assume an unreasonable amount of risk.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the panel’s ranking member, also referenced the “significant federal investments” required for projects. She said Congress must ensure that changes to PPAs appropriately balance risks for each of the parties.
With backers sticking to a schedule dating back years, WRDA 2024 is expected to be advanced out of committee before the summer and approved by both houses of Congress before the end of 2024.
Supply Chain Resilience
Addressing threats and vulnerabilities inside U.S. ports will be a near-term priority for a major effort to strengthen America’s supply chains by President Biden and his administration.
Port security will fall under a new Supply Chain Resilience Center announced by the Department of Homeland Security.
“Securing our critical infrastructure is fundamental to staying competitive in a 21st century economy,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) launched an Office of Multimodal Freight Infrastructure and Policy responsible for maintaining and improving the performance of the nation’s freight network and supply chains. That will include the development of the National Multimodal Freight Network, review of state freight plans and the continued advancement of Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW) created last year to speed up delivery times and cut costs.
According to DOT, FLOW now includes the five largest U.S. container ports, seven of the largest ocean carriers and four of the five largest retailers by imports.
President Biden also established a new White House Council on Supply Chain Resilience to support critical supply chains.
At its inaugural meeting, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke to the unprecedented investments in the nation’s supply chain infrastructure, including at its ports.
NMMPAC To Meet
The National Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee is scheduled to conduct a virtual meeting December 12 to discuss issues relating to personnel in the United States Merchant Marine, including the training, qualifications, certification, documentation and fitness of mariners.
Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 10 a.m. (EST).
Comments should be submitted by December 5 to ensure they are received before the meeting, preferably via www.regulations.gov and identified by docket number USCG– 2023–0872.
According to the agenda, a public comment period is scheduled to be held immediately after the Coast Guard presentation.
To join the virtual meeting, request special accommodations or receive an alternative method of submitting comments, contact Pamela Moore at 202-372-1361 or email@example.com.
Great Lakes Pilotage
The Coast Guard is seeking comments on a proposed rule to align Great Lakes Pilotage regulatory requirements with current Coast Guard and U.S. pilot association operations and pilotage practices, clarify phases of training and types of registration for pilots, eliminate outdated practices and redundant requirements and add structure to the billing dispute process.
Identified by docket number USCG-2022-0025, comments and related material must be received by January 22 and may be submitted at www.regulations.gov.
For additional information, contact Vincent Berg at 202-906-0835 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
OREI Risk Assessments
The Coast Guard published Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) 03-23 on navigational safety to assist mariners in making informed risk assessments in and around Offshore Renewable Energy Installations (OREIs).
“The number of OREIs in U.S. waters is increasing,” the NVIC stated, citing the 34 leases issued as of the summer for wind farms, which make up the largest number, and tidal and wave energy installations. It added the purpose of the amended Coast Guard authorities is to provide safe space around such facilities during construction, maintenance and decommissioning.
“OREIs will be established in close proximity to shipping routes,” the NVIC stated.
For additional information, contact the Office of Navigation Systems at CGNAV@uscg.mil.
OSV Chemical Code
The Office of Design and Engineering Standards (CG-ENG) issued Policy Letter 03-23 to provide guidance on the U.S. implementation of the Code for the Transport and Handling of Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk on Offshore Supply Vessels (OSV).
The policy letter describes Coast Guard policy for issuing a Certificate of Fitness (or OSV Chemical Code Certificate) in accordance with the OSV Chemical Code.
For additional information, contact CG-ENG-5 at email@example.com.