Cantwell gets bipartisan support for Coast Guard bill

By:  Camie Yngelmo
Source: KXLY.com

The Coast Guard reauthorization bill, which includes a number of important things for the state of Washington, passed in the Senate today by a 94-6 vote. Senator Maria Cantwell help get the bill through months of negotiations. It will improve oversight of oil spill risks, pay for another year of the Seattle-based Coast Guard icebreaker, expand family leave for Coast Guard families, protect  Washington state waters from invasive species and give a critical waiver to Anacortes shipyard to protect Washington state maritime jobs.

The bill also includes important science-based updates to ballast water management that will benefit Washington state fishermen and help protect Washington’s coasts and waterways. 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. The bill also includes Cantwell’s 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.

“Washington state is rich in its maritime history and its heritage, and the Coast Guard is a large part of that,” Senator Cantwell 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.”

In the legislation, Cantwell also secured a waiver to protect Washington state shipyard jobs at Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes. The waiver would allow the newly built America’s Finest vessel to fish in American waters and ensures the Coast Guard has the authority to review the project to protect the Jones Act.

The bill also includes several additional provisions, including 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.