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January-February 2013 Editorial

On December 30, Jeff McKee began a 120-day assignment as temporary chief of the Navigation Branch at the Corps of Engineers Headquarters Operations Division. In announcing McKee’s assignment, Jim Hannon, chief of the Operations and Regulatory Community of Practice at Corps HQ, said, “Jeff brings an extensive amount of experience and knowledge of the Corps Navigation Program. Jeff’s strong technical, management and leadership skills will ensure our continued success in the multiple on-going strategic Navigation initiatives.”

McKee fills the position previously held by Jim Walker, who retired in December.

Jeff McKee has been at the center of events and decisions affecting the dredging industry at Corps headquarters for many years, and has kept the industry informed of important matters through the National Dredging Meeting and his attendance at other dredging events. The Navigation Branch is in good hands.

On January 23, Barry Holliday distributed the January RAMP (Realize America’s Maritime Promise) Newsletter informing the industry of the efforts on Capitol Hill to ensure funding for maintaining the country’s navigable waterways. Holliday is executive director of the Dredging Contractors of America (DCA) and also spearheads the RAMP effort on behalf of the dredging industry.

With a new Congress in session, all legislation must be re-introduced, and Holliday reported that Congressman Charles Boustany (R-La .) had introduced the RAMP Act as H.R. 335 on January 22, with 36 co-sponsors. Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is expected to introduce a similar bill in the Senate “very soon.”

“As you will see,” said Holliday, “the text of the bills is very similar to last year’s versions, and the point of order language remains. We know this is an issue, and both Rep. Boustany and Senator Levin feel it is better to have legislation on the table and challenge the members to work out a solution.”

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, has stated that she wants to move out on passage of a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). This act has the support of the new ranking member of the Senate EPW Committee, Senator David Vitter (R-La.).

The EPW Committee has scheduled its first WRDA hearing for January 31, and the subject is the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. The new chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Congressman Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), in his opening statement on January 23, said that a WRDA is his No. 1 priority. Congressman Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), a strong supporter of RAMP, continues as chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment.

“We have much to do, and we need your help and support,” Holliday said. “First and foremost, we need to gather co-sponsors (for the RAMP bill). Approximately 40 House members are retired, moved on to other positions, or lost elections.

“We need to bring the new members on as cosponsors,” Holliday said.

It’s a source of pride to me that the dredging industry is taking the issue of safety seriously. Coupled with a focus on ethics that has been announced by one company – Manson Construction Company – these concepts form an admirable culture of responsibility for the health and welfare of everyone connected with or affected by the company.
Much is done in our time and in the world today that is not admirable, that causes harm and even death to people in the cause of business, and I don’t believe this is an unavoidable part of doing business.

Our industry is on a different course, as described in our memorial to Mitch White on page 28, where a friend says of him, “He helped change the paradigm that for many years held that accidents were an unavoidable part of dredging, to believing that we can work safely at all times.”
It’s something to be very proud of.

Judith Powers
Editor, IDR

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