— Congressman Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach, has been named to the conference committee that is to resolve differences between the U.S. House and Senate versions of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act.

The version that passed the House recently would allow for the dredging of the Georgetown port, a $33 million project that would have an estimated $30 million annual economic boost to the local economy.

“My district sent me to Washington to work on our infrastructure needs and the needs of the state,” Rice said in a press release from his office. “Since joining the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have made it my goal to do whatever it takes to champion South Carolina’s ports.”

Read more here: http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/2013/11/15/3839343/rice-named-to-water-resources.html#storylink=cpy

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – People in Horry County have been waiting for this day to come, and finally Wednesday it will be official. After years of waiting, the barriers come down and work will begin to finish Highway 31 and widen Highway 707.

Starting Wednesday, $342 million worth of road work projects kick off, so within the next few weeks, drivers can expect workers on Highway 707 marking where the road will be, and moving on to the main part of the utility line work.

Contractors expect to finish clearing out the trees by Spring 2014. Months later, in the Fall of 2014, the new Big Block Road intersection is expected to be finished, complete with a new traffic light, and turn lanes in all directions.

The actual widening construction will begin in 2014. When it comes to Highway 31, it's already cleared and ready to go. Construction will start near the end of 2013, or early 2014.

Documents show construction will begin on extending SC-31 in December, 2013.

"We'll have more of a definite timeline in the next three years over the construction part of it," said Horry County spokesperson Lisa Bourcier. "It will be similar like what we did at the Backgate. We're not going to allow anytime daytime closures - most of it will be done at night time."

The delays on the two projects have caused controversy. SCDOT 7th Congressional District Commissioner Mike Wooten said during the groundbreaking, SC-31 could've been finished by now.

"We would have been here two years ago and had 15 million more dollars to spend if not for the Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Environmental Law Center. I wish they would have had representatives here today so I could say that in front of them," Wooten said.

Office Manager for the North coast Coastal Conservation League Nancy Cave wasn't at the groundbreaking, but told WMBF News the delays in the projects wasn't to be blamed on the environmental groups.

"The terminus was changed on Highway 31. If you change a terminus, you have to make engineering redesigns , you have to modify your permits. What Mr. Wooten does not say, if that terminus had never been changed- Highway 31 would have been built years ago. The second reason the road was delayed was that the US Army Corp of Engineers found out that SCDOT's contractors had illegally filled wetlands when they were building phase 1 and phase 2 of highway 31," Cave said.

Wooten said he's concerned environmental groups will stall other road projects currently in the works.

"I guarantee you that we're gonna be battling that group every step of the way and I need everybody out here's support, including the press in that ,because we can't afford to take two years and spend millions of dollars battling over something that every citizen and every tourist coming to Horry County desperately needs," Wooten said.

Both construction projects are scheduled to finish in 2017. The official groundbreaking was Wednesday at 2 p.m. on the southern end of Highway 31 where it meets Highway 544.

A bill has been introduced in the House that would reinstate the hours-of-service rules in effect prior to July 1, 2013, by delaying the current rules until a Congressional investigation on the current hours rule is conducted.

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Rep. Tom Rice ( R-S.C.) and Rep Mike Michaud (D-Maine) introduced the bill Thursday, Oct. 31. The True Understanding of the Economy and Safety Act (TRUE Safety Act), as it’s dubbed, would allow truck drivers to revert back to obeying the 34-hour restart rules that were in place prior to July 1 — the ones made final by the April 28, 2003, final rule.

The six-page bill would also require the Government Accountability Office to conduct an independent assessment of the methodology that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration used to create the 34-hour restart rules.

Per the bill, FMCSA would also not allow the new 34-hour restart rule to be re-implemented until six months after the GAO submitted its report to Congress.

Hanna said the TRUE bill would allow assessment of the regulations “to ensure the rule makes sense and will not actually harm the traveling public and the American economy.”

“It is wrongheaded for the federal government to impose an arbitrary and capricious regulation that impacts almost every sector of the American economy without first finishing a study on its effectiveness,” Hanna said. “Federal agencies should have an obligation to prove that new rules and regulations do not cause more harm than good – in terms of both safety and costs.”

Rice said the bill will “rein in FMCSA,” which he says has “abused its authority.”

“[FMCSA] is requiring truckers to comply with one of the most stringent parts of its regulation prior to receiving their study’s findings,” he said, adding that the bill would “require an additional study to ensure that our truckers are not being over-regulated.”

Hanna tried in July to attach an amendment to a larger House transportation that would have delayed the July 1 hours rule, but the bill was pulled before Congress’ August recess.

In August, House members, including Hanna, Rice and Michaud, sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and House colleagues saying FMCSA would once again miss its deadline to complete a report on the results of the hours-of-service study required by the current MAP-21 highway funding act.

In a statement about the letter, Hanna signaled he intended to involve Congress in the hours rule to “bring relief to our nation’s truckers, small businesses and consumers — and restore some commonsense to this flawed regulatory process.” Foxx responded to the letter backing the rules and the studies and processes that went into crafting them.

The hours-of-service rules were tested in court by the American Trucking Associations, who had sued FMCSA in an attempt to undo the hours rule. The Aug. 2 ruling upheld the entirety of the rules, save the mandatory 30-minute break for short-haul drivers.

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, the American Trucking Associations thanked Reps. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Tom Rice (R-S.C.) and Michael Michaud (D-Maine) for introducing legislation that would put the brakes on the restart provision of the current federal hours-of-service rules until an independent review is conducted.

"When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration went ahead with its changes to the restart rule, it did so without waiting for essential research to be completed," said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. "This bill would simply do what should have been done in the first place: delay implementation until we really know the true operational impacts, costs and safety benefits."

The bill, H.R. 3413, would stay FMCSA's restart changes until the Government Accountability Office completes a full assessment of the data and rationale the agency used in issuing its rule.

A recent study by the American Transportation Research Institute found that the changes FMCSA made to the restart will ultimately have a net annual cost of up to $376 million, rather than the net benefit of $133 million the agency claimed in its rule.

While only in effect for four months, the rule is already causing significant disruption in the trucking industry. ATA member Schneider National, for example, reported that while productivity has slipped 3-4%, there's been little change in the fleet's safety performance and an increase driver dissatisfaction.

"We had hoped FMCSA would've listened to reason when we asked them to delay initially, but we hope they'll listen to Congress and rethink these changes," Graves said. "We appreciate Reps. Hanna, Rice and Michaud for their important work in this area."

American Trucking Associations is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. Through a federation of 50 affiliated state trucking associations and industry-related conferences and councils, ATA is the voice of the industry America depends on most to move our nation's freight. Follow ATA on Twitter or on Facebook. Good stuff. Trucks Bring It!

SOURCE American Trucking Associations

Read more here: http://www.heraldonline.com/2013/10/31/5358826/ata-applauds-bill-to-put-controversial.html#storylink=cpy


The U.S. House of Representatives today overwhelmingly passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act which could mean money which means money could be coming for the much needed dredging of channel leading to the Port of Georgetown.
The vote today by the House was the first since Congress abandoned the policy of using earmarks and a bill that U.S. Rep. Tom Rice says is good for South Carolina’s ports.

He told the Associated Press it was a “historic” vote since the bill was the first test of the new allocation system after earmarks.
The measure authorizes the Appropriations Committee to allocate money for harbor projects from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that brings in $1.8 billion a year from port users. The Senate earlier passed its own version of the bill.

The House version includes a provision Rice helped insert to help smaller ports like Georgetown. For the next two fiscal years, it allocates 10 percent of Trust Fund expenditures for improvements at ports handling less than 1 million tons of cargo annually.
Currently, such smaller ports can’t get the money.

“Georgetown is caught in a Catch 22,” said Rice, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “At one time, Georgetown had more than a million tons of cargo, which would have allowed them to use harbor maintenance funds,” he said. “But when the steel mill closed down temporarily, they lost their tonnage and the river silted in. They couldn’t get it dredged until they got the tonnage back up, and they couldn’t get the tonnage back up until they got it dredged.”

That dredging should cost about $30 million and Rice said he will make his case to the Corps of Engineers that the project is worthwhile once the bill is passed. Currently Georgetown Steel brings in ore by ship through Wilmington and then by rail to Georgetown. That ore could be brought in locally by ship if the port were dredged.

The act authorizes spending on 26 waterway and harbor improvement projects nationwide. They are not earmarks because they were not inserted by individual members of Congress.

The bill allows engineering and construction on projects receiving final Corps approval after the act is approved to move forward using local or state funds. Port agencies then can later apply for federal reimbursement.

Currently, only about half the money raised by the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund each year goes to water projects. The bill requires that by 2020, 80 percent of the money be used for such projects.

The Post and Courier contributed to this report