Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

President Signs Coast Guard Authorization Bill


January 1, 2019

Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, both R-Alaska, at a news conference related to the 7.0 earthquake in Anchorage, noted that passage of the Coast Guard Authorization legislation was imminent. Photo by Margaret Bauman.

Coast Guard reauthorization legislation that passed the US Senate on Nov. 14 won unanimous approval in the US House on Nov. 27, and was signed into law on December 4th by President Trump.

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 include legislation that protects shipyard jobs at Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes, Washington. It allows the newly built Fishermen's Finest vessel America's Finest to fish in US waters and ensures that the Coast Guard has the authority to review the project. Fishermen's Finest has been waiting to take delivery of the vessel, built in Anacortes in violation of the Jones Act.

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 includes 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.

The bill also reauthorizes the Hydrographic Services Improvement Act, which will improve hydrographic surveying, especially in the Arctic. And, noted Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, it will aid in construction of a new homeport for the NOAA research vessel Fairweather in Ketchikan.

seafood Harvesters of America also hailed the benefits of the bill for fish harvesters dealing with ballast water and other discharges.

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.

Updates to the ballast water management issue will benefit Washington state fishermen and help protect the state's coasts and waterways, Cantwell noted. "The bill puts existing West Coast ballast water management practices into law, such as strong state vessel inspection and enforcement, to help protect Washington waters from invasive species like quagga mussels, she said. The Senate version of the bill also included legislation to reinstate protections for fishermen and small commercial vessel owners from adhering to costly requirements that do not tangibly protect or improve water quality when applied to vessels of their size.

Overall, the Washington Democrat said, "this bill includes many provisions important to our Coast Guard, our environment, and to our shipbuilding community. It represents a true, bipartisan effort to find solutions and put those solutions into action."

Alaska's Murkowski hailed the bill as "a step toward further developing our presence in the Arctic and will help us engage more deeply in activities in the North, providing an opportunity for increased development in the region.

"I'm particularly pleased that this bill will permanently exempt Alaskans from the EPA incidental discharge regulation, providing much needed protection for our fishermen and coastal communities," she said.

On a national level, the bill's maritime border enforcement and drug regulation would help control and combat illegal transportation by national and transnational criminal organizations by bolstering the budget for investigations and increasing interagency cooperation.


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