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Capital Report


June 2015 Issue

US House Transportation Committee Approves Coast Guard Reauthorization
The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1987), which authorizes Coast Guard and Federal Maritime Commission funding levels for two years and includes provisions to improve Coast Guard mission effectiveness, help modernize the service’s aging vessels and other assets, and reform U.S. maritime transportation laws.

“This legislation will strengthen the Coast Guard’s ability to protect our nation and safeguard maritime commerce by providing budget stability and funds to help address unmet capital project needs,” said Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Ranking Member John Garamendi (D-Calif.). “It also includes new economic opportunities for our shipyards and merchant marine to grow the U.S. flag through the nascent U.S. LNG export trade.”

Three New Marine Highway Projects In Midwest and East Coast
Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has designated three new Marine Highway Projects. The Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, previously designated as the M-55 and M-35, connecting Chicago, Illinois, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, to New Orleans, Louisiana, will serve as the primary routes for a new container-on-barge service being developed by communities along the rivers.

The M-495 Potomac River Commuter Ferry Project will connect work and residential centers located along the Potomac, Occoquan and Anacostia Rivers, providing a waterborne alternative for moving passengers and freight within the region and increasing the resiliency of the existing regional transit system.

The third service is a proposed route that will provide access to origins and destinations east of the Hudson River for freight arriving and departing the Port Newark Container Terminal, further enhancing New York Harbor’s cross-harbor freight network.

USS Monitor Receives Grant for Conservation
The Mariners’ Museum was awarded a grant for $99,900 from the U.S. National Park Service’s National Maritime Heritage Grant Program in support of ongoing efforts to conserve and exhibit artifacts from the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor.

The grant provides for the acquisition of a state-of-the-art dry ice abrasion system for mechanically cleaning wrought-iron artifacts, such as USS Monitor’s gun turret and engine components. The grant also provides additional funding to hire another conservation expert to help utilize the equipment.

No Consensus on Seismic Surveying
Florida Senator Bill Nelson (D) introduced legislation forbidding seismic surveying activity from taking place offshore Florida, NOIA reported. The bill follows the Florida Department of Environmental Protection recently voicing their disapproval of seismic surveying in a letter to BOEM. Five pending seismic permits include areas offshore Florida; however, the Atlantic lease sale included in the 2017 to 2022 Draft Proposed Program does not include areas off the Sunshine State.

NOIA also reported that Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) held a press conference to announce his opposition to Atlantic seismic surveying and offshore drilling. He had previously supported Atlantic offshore energy development, with the caveat that states be given a greater say in the process and that the line-of-sight for coastal communities be preserved. Sanford said that the growing local opposition and resolutions passed by various town councils, and spearheaded by environmental groups, affected his change in position.

In contrast, in a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, more than 200 geoprofessionals wrote: “Geophysical surveys are a time-tested technology that have been shown to be compatible with the marine environment for more than 50 years.” The letter followed one from 75 international marine scientists urging the Department of Interior to halt the Atlantic seismic permitting process.

Move America Act of 2015 Would Offer Tax Help for Ports
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) publicly voiced support for the bipartisan Move America Act of 2015 infrastructure bonding and credits legislation introduced by Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

The Move America proposal would provide more tax-exempt financing for public-private partnerships, along with the option to use federal tax credits to leverage private equity investment in public infrastructure projects, including critical improvements at U.S. seaports and connecting infrastructures.

US House Bill Would Fund Harbor Maintenance
H.R. 2028, the U.S. House of Representatives’ fiscal 2016 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, has passed, including two bipartisan amendments.

The bill would fund the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ navigation program, which manages improvements and maintenance of federal navigation channels at U.S. ports.

The first amendment, offered by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) and Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), would increase the appropriation for Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) spending by $36.3 million.

The second amendment, offered by Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), T&I Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Ranking Member Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) and Congressional Ports Caucus Co-Chair Ted Poe (R-Texas), would ensure that the expenditures from the Corps of Engineers’ operations and maintenance account comply with the intent of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014.

WRRDA 2014 established target amounts for HMT funding levels, as well as an allocation formula to address tax fairness and donor equity issues for distribution of the nationwide HMT tax collections.


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