The Blog Aquatic » funding http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Four Ways the Senate Supports Ocean Investments http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/06/06/four-ways-the-senate-supports-ocean-investments/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/06/06/four-ways-the-senate-supports-ocean-investments/#comments Fri, 06 Jun 2014 21:16:09 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8450 Just a week after the House of Representatives passed its proposed budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved its NOAA proposal, funding research and activities that influence the health and strength of our ocean economy and coastal communities.

The Senate proposal takes a cue from President Obama’s request, and would invest in several key ocean programs. It would:

  • Fund ocean acidification research at $11 million, recognizing our need to understand how acidification will impact businesses and ecoystems, as well as the need to develop tools to mitigate its impacts. Although this proposal is still $4 million less than the President’s request, the Senate level is a strong step towards protecting marine environments and the communities that depend on them.
  • Provide at least $5 million for competitive Regional Coastal Resilience Grants, which will help communities prepare for changes to marine ecosystems, climate impacts, and economic shifts. These grants will bring together partners on a regional scale to promote resilience and address shared risks.
  • Increase Climate Research funding by $2.19 million to support the Arctic Research Program. Temperatures in the Arctic are warming at twice the rate of the global average and seasonal sea ice is diminishing rapidly. Funding to expand and improve NOAA’s Arctic Observing Network is critical to track and understand these profound changes and provide products that support our ability to adapt.
  • Provide the requested $6 million for NOAA’s Marine Debris program, which supports existing monitoring and research efforts to better understand accumulation rates of debris and debris sources. The program catalyzes scientific research efforts to quantify the direct and indirect economic impacts caused by marine debris on coastal communities and economies that rely on them.

These investments are a stark contrast to the low funding levels we saw for these ocean priorities in the House version last week.  Up next, the Senate proposal heads to the floor for a vote, and then to conference where members from both chambers will reconcile the House and Senate versions. It will be up to ocean champions in Congress to ensure that strong ocean funding makes it into NOAA’s final budget for next year.

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Money Down the Drain: Tallying the Cost of the Government Shutdown http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/11/01/money-down-the-drain-tallying-the-cost-of-the-government-shutdown/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/11/01/money-down-the-drain-tallying-the-cost-of-the-government-shutdown/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 17:50:06 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6919 NOAA research ship Ronald Brown

Credit: NOAA

The U.S. government shutdown began one month ago today. Thankfully, the government has been reopened, and the fiscal showdown is fast becoming a distant memory that we’re all trying to forget. But details are slowly emerging on the shutdown’s actual costs and damage. We’ve gotten our hands on some of that information, and when it comes to our oceans and coasts, it doesn’t look pretty.

Based on information given to us by sources within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the cost of just one small part of the shutdown—recalling NOAA’s fleet of research ships and planes—added up to more than half a million dollars.

That’s half a million dollars just for NOAA’s ships and planes to return to port and sit idle while the shutdown fight played out on Capitol Hill. That’s half a million dollars that will come out of NOAA’s already-tight operations budgets. And that’s half a million dollars that could have been spent on ocean research and conservation instead.

In addition to the giant pile of cash that was wasted to literally accomplish nothing, the shutdown also interrupted critical research expeditions that now might never be completed. For example, surveys of marine mammals and sea turtles—including endangered leatherback sea turtles—were interrupted and canceled.

The shutdown blocked coastal mapping and underwater surveys along the mid-Atlantic, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington state, along the Southern California coast and in Delaware Bay. Collection of long-term data sets for climate research was stopped. And fisheries surveys in the North Pacific, Gulf of Alaska and the East Coast continental shelf were brought to a halt.

Here is a detailed account of each of NOAA’s research ships and planes, what they were doing when the government shutdown ended their work and how much it cost to return them to port temporarily while the shutdown persisted:

  • NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown had to spend $277,000 and 13 days traveling the 2,600 miles to return to port, stopping the Atlantic 20 Degree West Hydrographic Survey to complete a decade’s long data-set integral to the study of global climate change.
  • NOAA’s 56RF (Twin Otter) plane had to return 2,800 miles from Monterey, Calif., to Tampa, Fla., at a cost of $7,000, stopping the survey of endangered leatherback turtles.
  • NOAA’s N57RF (Twin Otter) plane had to return 1,200 miles from Westhampton, N.Y., to Tampa, Fla., at a cost of $3,000, stopping the mid-Atlantic marine mammal and sea turtle survey.
  • NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow had to spend $14,000 and one day to return 200 miles to port, stopping the Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey to determine the distribution and abundance of fish and marine life over the East Coast continental shelf.
  • NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson had to spend $14,000 and one day to return 200 miles to port, stopping the Juvenile Walleye Pollock and Forage Fish Survey to assess their biomass, community structure and biological composition. The ship was also scheduled to examine physical and chemical oceanography and recover several moorings in the Gulf of Alaska.
  • NOAA’s N42RF (P-3) plane did not deploy to Fairbanks, Alaska, as scheduled to study Arctic weather in newly ice-free regions and test hypotheses in ocean heat storage and the impact on atmospheric temperature and humidity. This survey is important for understanding the rapidly changing Arctic environment.
  • NOAA’s N68RF (King Air) plane had to return 1,100 miles from Atlantic City, N.J., to Tampa, Fla., at a cost of $16,500, stopping the coastal mapping along the mid-Atlantic. These maps provide important information used for shipping, navigation and more.
  • NOAA Ship Fairweather had to spend $56,000 to return 1,000 miles to port (which took four days), stopping hydrographic surveys of the Southern California coast.
  • NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson had to spend $10,000 and one day to return 250 miles to port, stopping a hydrographic survey of Delaware Bay.
  • NOAA Ship Rainier had to return 1,700 miles to port (which took seven days) at a cost of $105,000, stopping hydrographic surveys of the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

And this is just a snapshot of the shutdown’s effects on widely used ocean research conducted by one government agency. As we look ahead to the next fiscal showdown in January, when current funding for the government will run out again, let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself. The ocean, the people who make their living from it and American taxpayers can’t afford it.

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Straight A’s for the Senate on NOAA Funding http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/24/straight-as-for-the-senate-on-noaa-funding/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/24/straight-as-for-the-senate-on-noaa-funding/#comments Wed, 24 Jul 2013 14:30:26 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6393 cut up $100 bill

Photo: Tax Credits via Flickr

The House of Representatives did not do very well when I gave them grades last week on their answers to three key questions about funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The Senate has released their funding proposal—let’s see if they did any better:

1. NOAA’s topline budget: does it cover the costs?         GRADE: A

The Senate’s proposal would fund NOAA at $5.6 billion, $150 million above the President’s request for next year. That extra $150 million would go to mitigating the effects of fishery disasters declared around the country. The rest of the $5.4 billion closely aligns with the President’s request, targeting important programs like ocean acidification for long overdue funding increases.

Adequate funding for NOAA is critically important to the health of our nation’s ocean and coasts, and the economies and communities that depend on them. The truth is we need to be investing in these vital programs at significantly higher levels. However, in this fiscal climate, providing funding above the level requested by the President’s budget is a significant step.

2. Is there balance between NOAA’s wet and dry missions?       GRADE A

Here, the Senate gets it right again. Unlike the House bill, the Senate doesn’t cut tens of millions of dollars from the National Marine Fisheries Service or more than $100 million from the National Ocean Service. Instead, the Senate version makes it clear that programs that support a healthy ocean and healthy ocean economies are not going to bear the brunt of automatic spending cuts.

The Senate also acknowledges that NOAA has a dual mission for an important reason: NOAA’s “wet side” programs contribute to disaster preparedness and mitigation, and support severe storm tracking and weather forecasting systems. Without support for both its wet and dry missions, NOAA can’t do either.

3. Does the bill attack the National Ocean Policy?            GRADE A

So far, so good. While it is possible that we may still see attacks on the National Ocean Policy as this appropriations process moves forward, the Senate bill is free of such attacks for now.

Ultimately, unless some broader deal is worked out in the meantime, the Senate will have to go to conference with the House and decide what a final funding bill for the next year at NOAA will look like. Hopefully the Senate can maintain its A average.

 

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NOAA Funding Bill Gets Poor Grades When It Comes to Supporting a Healthy Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/16/noaa-funding-bill-gets-poor-grades-when-it-comes-to-supporting-a-healthy-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/16/noaa-funding-bill-gets-poor-grades-when-it-comes-to-supporting-a-healthy-ocean/#comments Tue, 16 Jul 2013 19:49:46 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6315

Credit: Architect of the Capitol

Last week, I wrote about what to look for in the about-to-be released bills for funding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including three questions to ask to determine whether the bill will support a healthy ocean. Now the House of Representatives has released its funding bill for NOAA.

As a former high school math and physics teacher, I thought grades were in order.

1. NOAA’s topline budget: does it cover the costs?     GRADE: C

We have written before about bigger problems within the federal budget and how those problems impact ocean funding. In the House, the overall amount of money allocated for NOAA is too low. But the reality is that only a solution at a much higher level, including the president and Congress working together, can fix the problem. So we’re cutting the House Committee some slack because we know that their hands are tied.

But the dysfunction of Washington is no excuse for NOAA’s budget to be $524 million below the president’s request. NOAA is facing a unique set of needs—like satellite acquisition—that mean flat-funding is not acceptable. NOAA needs increases or else people, services and the ocean environment are going to get left behind.

By essentially keeping the funding the same for the agency, the House is guaranteeing that something will have to be cut. It’s simple math.

2. Is there balance between NOAA’s wet and dry missions?     GRADE: D

Here, the House avoided an “F” by the skin of its teeth. In many ways, the House bill is atrocious when it comes to balancing NOAA’s portfolio. The National Ocean Service is funded at $128 million below the president’s request and the National Marine Fisheries Service at $83 million below. The ocean and coasts get left behind as members of Congress have tried to use what little funding there is to help the National Weather Service.

For example, Coastal Zone Management Grants, which fund state and regional priorities for the ocean, are cut by $31 million, nearly half the president’s request. Climate research is cut by a shocking $92 million. The only saving grace is a few examples of small but important programs that were preserved or increased—like a small increase in funding for ocean acidification research and monitoring.

3. Does the bill attack the National Ocean Policy?     GRADE: D

On the National Ocean Policy, the House bill again just ekes by. While the bill doesn’t attack the policy outright, it does not provide funding for this important initiative, and it takes the issue a step further with language making it clear that the House doesn’t support it. But the National Ocean Policy is bipartisan, spanning both Republican and Democratic administrations.

The National Ocean Policy is about balance, good governance and ensuring long-term sustainability for our ocean economy, ocean jobs and ocean environment. It calls for agencies to coordinate on their ocean activities and leverage limited resources, and for priorities to be set at the local and regional level instead of in Washington, D.C.

A handful of Congressmen that live nowhere near the ocean—namely Rep. Flores from Houston and Rep. Hastings from inland Washington state—have made a major push to get rid of the National Ocean Policy. These attacks on the policy are simply political gamesmanship—and it’s only fun and games until our coastal communities get hurt.

We expect these attacks to continue as this bill moves through full committee and then on to the House floor.

We will need to rely on the Senate to help restore these numbers. With over half of the members on the Senate Appropriations Committee representing coastal or Great Lakes states, there is hope that they will better understand the value of these programs. Stay tuned as the Senate begins its work on this bill this week.

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