The Secretary of the Army, acting through the Chief of Engineers (hereinafter referred to as the “Secretary”), in carrying out projects for improvement of rivers and harbors (other than surveys, estimates, and gagings) shall, by contract or otherwise, carry out such work in the manner most economical and advantageous to the United States. The Secretary shall have dredging and related work done by contract if he determines private industry has the capability to do such work and it can be done at reasonable prices and in a timely manner. During the four-year period which begins on April 26, 1978, the Secretary may limit the application of the second sentence of this subsection for work for which the federally owned fleet is available to achieve an orderly transition to full implementation of this subsection.
As private industry reasonably demonstrates its capability under subsection (a) to perform the work done by the federally owned fleet, at reasonable prices and in a timely manner, the federally owned fleet shall be reduced in an orderly manner, as determined by the Secretary, by retirement of plant. To carry out emergency and national defense work the Secretary shall retain only the minimum federally owned fleet capable of performing such work and he may exempt from the provisions of this section such amount of work as he determines to be reasonably necessary to keep such fleet fully operational, as determined by the Secretary, after the minimum fleet requirements have been determined. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, in carrying out the reduction of the federally owned fleet, the Secretary may retain so much of the federally owned fleet as he determines necessary, for so long as he determines necessary, to insure the capability of the Federal Government and private industry together to carry out projects for improvements of rivers and harbors. For the purpose of making the determination required by the preceding sentence the Secretary shall not exempt any work from the requirements of this section. The minimum federally owned fleet shall be maintained to technologically modern and efficient standards, including replacement as necessary. The Secretary is authorized and directed to undertake a study to determine the minimum federally owned fleet required to perform emergency and national defense work. The study, which shall be submitted to Congress within two years after April 26, 1978, shall also include preservation of employee rights of persons presently employed on the existing federally owned fleet.
The Secretary shall initiate a program to increase the use of private-industry hopper dredges for the construction and maintenance of Federal navigation channels.
In order to carry out this subsection, the Secretary shall place the Federal hopper dredge Wheeler in a ready reserve status not later than the earlier of 90 days after the date of completion of the rehabilitation of the hopper dredge McFarland pursuant to section 563 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1996 or October 1, 1997.
The Secretary may periodically perform routine tests of the equipment of the vessel placed in a ready reserve status under paragraph (2) to ensure the vessel’s ability to perform emergency work. The Secretary shall not assign any scheduled hopper dredging work to such vessel but shall perform any repairs needed to maintain the vessel in a fully operational condition. The Secretary may place the vessel in active status in order to perform any dredging work only if the Secretary determines that private industry has failed to submit a responsive and responsible bid for work advertised by the Secretary or to carry out the project as required pursuant to a contract with the Secretary.
The Secretary may undertake any repair and rehabilitation of any Federal hopper dredge, including the vessel placed in ready reserve status under paragraph (2) to allow the vessel to be placed in active status as provided in paragraph (3).
Not later than 2 years after October 12, 1996, the Secretary shall report to Congress on whether the vessel placed in ready reserve status under paragraph (2) is needed to be returned to active status or continued in a ready reserve status or whether another Federal hopper dredge should be placed in a ready reserve status.
The Secretary may not further reduce the readiness status of any Federal hopper dredge below a ready reserve status except any vessel placed in such status for not less than 5 years that the Secretary determines has not been used sufficiently to justify retaining the vessel in such status.
For each fiscal year beginning after October 12, 1996, the Secretary shall not assign any greater quantity of dredging work to any Federal hopper dredge in active status than was assigned to that vessel in the average of the 3 prior fiscal years. This subparagraph shall not apply to the Federal hopper dredges Essayons and Yaquina of the Corps of Engineers.
In carrying out the program under this section, the Secretary shall not reduce the availability and utilization of Federal hopper dredge vessels stationed on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts below that which occurred in fiscal year 1996 to meet the navigation dredging needs of the ports on those coasts.
The Secretary may enter into a contract for the maintenance and crewing of any Federal hopper dredge retained in a ready reserve status. The capital costs (including depreciation costs) of any dredge retained in such status shall be paid for out of funds made available from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and shall not be charged against the Corps of Engineers’ Revolving Fund Account or any individual project cost unless the dredge is specifically used in connection with that project.