Congress directed the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) to pursue a Marine Highway Program in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and the Coast Guard Maritime Transportation Act of 2012. “Marine highways,” also referred to as short-sea shipping, has been touted as a way to alleviate land-side U.S. highway and rail congestion.
On February 23, 2012, MARAD announced its intention to examine the environmental impacts of a Marine Highway Program. On July 14, 2014 (Docket No. MARAD-2012-0015), MARAD issued a draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment of the program and requested public comments, due by August 13, 2014. The almost 400-page assessment concludes that comprehensive environmental studies (including biological assessments, air quality conformity analyses, noise modeling, etc.) would need to be conducted on a site-specific basis as the program moves forward.