* New ASA(CW)
The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing last week on the nomination of R.D. James to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. Here’s a summary put together by my colleague, Zack Moody –
Sen. Blount (R-MO) introduced James and vouched for him as a civil engineer, farmer, and small business man. In his opening statement, James said he “will mitigate future flood impacts and address past damages” and that flood control infrastructure is vital. In response to a question from Sen. Reed (D-RI) James admitted that he was not overly familiar with coastal flood prevention as it relates to hurricanes, and that most of his experience and knowledge relates to riverine and more inland flood protections. He stated that his staff will “get him up to speed on coastal” matters. He also acknowledged the effect of climate change and urban sprawl (more concrete) in driving more water into streams and rivers at a faster rate. James also agreed to address the question of leadership in the Corps as it relates to “uninformed and constantly rotating commanders at the district level.” In response to a question from Sen. Kaine (D-VA) about coastal resiliency efforts in Norfolk, VA, James again admitted that his career experience doesn’t relate to this matter, but that he is familiar with the effects of sea level rise in coastal Louisiana, if not the rest of the country. Finally, Sen. McCaskill asked him if in response to the administration’s expansive budget cuts he would advocate strongly to keep Corps funding. James’ response was that he will be an advocate for the Corps budget, but that he will have to go along with what the Administration says.
No date has yet been set for the full Senate to take up this nominations, but James seems sure to receive the approval of the Armed Services Committee.
* New Principal Deputy ASA Announced
Ryan Fisher, Chief of Planning for the Corps’ Pittsburgh District Office has been named the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (PDASA). I am told that he previously worked for VP Pence during Pence's congressional service. Our sources say he’s young, has a good reputation among his peers. If you have any more info on Mr. Fisher, please let me know.
* What does the tax bill mean for the coast?
The answer depends on what decisions are made regarding tax brackets and deductions for mortgage interest on primary and secondary homes. It seems likely that the House and Senate can each pass its own version of tax reform on a party line vote. The push will be for the two chambers to agree on a final version before the end of the year. Meanwhile, Dec. 8th is less than a month away and that’s the date the temporary funding measure keeping the government funded runs out (as does the authority for the flood insurance program). It’s likely Congress will kick the can down the road on those measures – but how far? Right now, it looks like they’ll stay in until Santa Claus takes off from the North Pole. That means funding for regular appropriations bills will wait until then at least. And who knows when the next supplemental appropriations bill comes? It’s needed for response to hurricanes and flooding, not only on the coast but elsewhere, as well.
* Latest Legislative Action
We’re tracking over 150 measures in the House and Senate that have a direct impact on the coast. Recently signed into law is HR 1117, a bill that requires FEMA to submit a report on plans related to assistance to applicants and grantees. You can scan the full list of bills on our Climate Change & the Coasts page here.
* Tweet Tweet
The birds may be headed far south for the winter, but I’m still sending out the latest news a couple of times a day on my Twitter feed. Please follow me @HDMarlowe. Recent posts have announced the release pf the Surfrider Foundation’s annual State of the Beach Report, a thoughtful piece on the lessons from Harvey, the latest on the long road to recovery for Houston and Puerto Rico, plus a study on the social and economic impacts of coastal erosion.