Washington, D.C. – The House of Representatives today approved a bipartisan, bicameral Coast Guard agreement that works to protect the nation’s oceans and waterways, improve the USCG’s mission readiness, and support our men and women in uniform. The legislation, H.R. 5769, the Howard Coble Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014, also works to advance a number of Alaskan priorities supported by Congressman Don Young, including a 1-year moratorium on regulatory burdens facing fisherman and vessel owners, and improvements to USCG lands and housing infrastructure.
“We always knew a Coast Guard reauthorization bill would come down to the wire, not because the legislation lacked the necessary improvements and reforms, but because of the sluggish environment currently plaguing Washington, D.C.” said Congressman Don Young. “This legislation, which reduces regulatory burdens and improves Coast Guard operations across Alaska and the nation, has always remained a top priority of mine and I look forward to seeing it enacted into law. It’s unfortunate the Senate could not agree to a permanent fix to provide surety for our fishermen from regulatory burdens, but I expect we will be able to finally solve this problem in the new Congress.”
Of particular note, H.R. 5769 extends a one year moratorium for owners of fishing vessels and small commercial vessels from having to obtain EPA permits for incidental discharges, such as deck water runoff.
Congressman Young also included language within H.R. 5769 that supports the economic development of unused USCG property in Womens Bay, AK on Kodiak Island. Under current law, the USCG is prohibited from leasing submerged or tidal lands beyond a 5-year maximum, which has proven to restrict long-term planning and asset management of USCG lands.
“The short term lease limitations imposed on Coast Guard lands in locations like Womens Bay greatly hinder future development projects in communities that support our Coast Guard,” said Congressman Don Young. “At a time when federal funds are scarce for infrastructure, we are letting regulations stand in the way of private development wanted by all parties. This legislation would add a small tool in the arsenal for the USCG by enabling the Commandant complete discretion on whether or not to lease submerged and tidal lands for a longer period of time.
Congressman Young supported the following provisions of Alaskan interest, which:
- Support servicemember pay raises and provides more resources for Coast Guard housing.
- Ensure servicemembers in certain fields have opportunity for career advancement by addressing long-standing barriers and regulatory impediments for Sea Service veterans seeking employment within the U.S.-flag merchant marine.
- Require a determination on the feasibility of refurbishing the USCGC Polar Sea, and provides authorization for a service life extension for the vessel that currently sits in port out of service.
- Require the Coast Guard to provide Congress with a strategy to maintain icebreaking capabilities in the Polar Regions that includes an analysis of the cost effectiveness of acquiring or leasing new icebreaker assets.
- Require regular reporting on the status of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Polar Code negotiations, including safety for ships operating in polar waters, and the impacts on coastal communities in regards to the costs of delivering freight and fuel, as well on the safety of maritime transportation.
- At request of the Senate Majority, the bill reiterates currently existing authority for the construction of forward operating facilities in the Arctic.
- Reauthorizes fishing vessel safety grants.
- Provides an inflationary adjustment to the funding provided for the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council.