Wednesday, November 28, 2018

US House Votes Unanimously to Pass Coast Guard Authorization Bill

Coast Guard reauthorization legislation that passed the US Senate on Nov. 14 has been unanimously approved by the US House.

The bill now heads to the White House, where it is expected to be signed into law by year’s end. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, hailed the House vote on Nov. 27 as “finally a win for Dakota Creek and the hardworking men and women who build fishing, Navy and other vessels in our state.”

Provisions contained in the huge Coast Guard package deal contain legislation to help protect shipbuilding jobs at Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes, Washington.

Other provisions include improved oversight of ships that pose oil spill risks, recapitalization of the Seattle-based Polar Star icebreaker and improved paid family leave policies for Coast Guard members and their families.

The legislation also involves the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, which sets a national standard for regulation of ballast water and other incidental discharges, while providing a permanent exemption for commercial fishing vessels and other commercial vessels under 75 feet from needing permits through the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, the bill reauthorizes the Hydrographic Services Improvement Act, which will improve hydrographic surveying, especially in the Arctic. As noted by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, it will aid in construction of a new homeport for the NOAA research vessel Fairweather in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Seafood Harvesters of America also hailed the benefits of the bill for fish harvesters dealing with ballast water and other discharges. The measure was criticized by the Center for Biological Diversity as a blow to the Clean Water Act’s ability to protect rivers, estuaries and lakes from harmful invasive species.

Co-sponsors of the bill in the Senate included Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, both R-Alaska, John Thune, R-SD, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Bill Nelson, D-Florida.

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