The Blog Aquatic » Senate http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 14 Aug 2014 17:21:33 +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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The Ocean in Congress this Week: Good News and Bad News http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/29/the-ocean-in-congress-this-week-good-news-and-bad-news/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/29/the-ocean-in-congress-this-week-good-news-and-bad-news/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 17:57:06 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8416

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will debate the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill – an important bill for the ocean because it sets the annual budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Many amendments will be introduced to alter the bill; as far as the oceans are concerned, there’s good news and bad news.

Let’s start with the good news:

On the heels of some very important steps to tackle ocean acidification last week, Representative Bonamici (D-OR) led the charge to ensure that this issue, which is threatening American businesses and livelihoods, receives increased funding from Congress.

A few months ago, President Obama called for increased investments in funding ocean acidification research and monitoring. Unfortunately the U.S. House of Representatives has failed to answer that call so far. An amendment offered by Representative Bonamici would have increased the funding level for NOAA’s Ocean Acidification research program from $6 million to $15 million – the amount that the President says we need, however this amendment did not pass the house.  These dollars would have supported critical research to improve our understanding of acidification impacts on vulnerable communities and businesses.

Luckily, the U.S. Senate still has an opportunity to grab the baton from Rep. Bonamici and support full funding for this research when they take up their own NOAA funding bill next week.

But here’s the bad news:

A Member of Congress from a landlocked district in Texas is continuing his efforts to thwart common sense ocean planning. Representative Flores (R-TX) introduced an amendment that tries to block the nation’s premier ocean agency, NOAA, from smart ocean planning and other activities to support a healthy ocean through the National Ocean Policy.

This amendment is the sixth attempt in the last two years by Rep. Flores to undermine smart planning for the ocean, but none of his amendments have become law – thanks to strong opposition from Ocean Conservancy members, the Obama Administration, and the U.S. Senate.

We need to hold strong against this latest attack. Being smart about how we use our ocean allows us to look at the big picture and work together to make informed, balanced choices for a healthy ocean and the millions of jobs and livelihoods that depend on it. Planning maximizes what we get out of the ocean while minimizing the threats to the ocean’s health. It prevents conflicts like wind farms being planned in major shipping routes, balances uses like sand mining and commercial fishing interests, and protects key biological resources without impeding the needs of our defense infrastructure.

You can help by telling your member of Congress to oppose this amendment.

It’s clear that we have a challenge ahead, but we are hopeful that leaders in the U.S. Senate will prioritize the people and communities that depend on a healthy ocean by funding critically important ocean research and planning.

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Attack on National Ocean Policy Defeated; Lost Opportunity to Create a National Endowment for the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/16/attack-on-national-ocean-policy-defeated-lost-opportunity-to-create-a-national-endowment-for-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/16/attack-on-national-ocean-policy-defeated-lost-opportunity-to-create-a-national-endowment-for-the-ocean/#comments Fri, 16 May 2014 20:36:49 +0000 Anne Merwin http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8318 Over the course of the last few months, we’ve been talking about the competing visions of the House and Senate versions of a bill called the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The Senate proposed to establish a National Endowment for the Oceans, which would expand scientific research, provide planning and resource management, restore habitat and much more. Conversely, the House proposed to gut the existing National Ocean Policy that ensures smart use of ocean resources.

See our previous posts here, here, and here. Thousands of you wrote and called members of Congress, asking them to safeguard the National Ocean Policy and to establish a National Endowment for the Oceans.

This week, after nearly 6 months of negotiation, a final deal was announced. Thanks to your help, the threat to the National Ocean Policy was resoundingly rejected. Champions in the Senate and White House heard you, and successfully negotiated to remove the “Flores rider”—inserted by Rep. Bill Flores who represents a landlocked district in central Texas— from the final bill. If it had been successful, this misguided attempted to undermine the National Ocean Policy would have prohibited the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a key coastal and ocean management agency, from coordinating with coastal states, other federal agencies and the public as they engage in smart ocean planning. With this threat removed, the multiple states that are already working on smart ocean planning can move forward unimpeded with the full cooperation and participation of the federal government.

Unfortunately, the proposed new National Endowment for the Ocean was collateral damage in the negotiations. It is frustrating and disappointing that despite strong public demand and the recommendation of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, partisan politics derailed this opportunity to create a permanent, sustainable fund for our oceans’ future. However, we appreciate the Administration and Senate’s full-throated defense of the National Ocean Policy, and look forward to working with them to advance ocean planning priorities.

We are also pleased to see that the final bill does help prioritize the needs of coastal communities by creating a new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers coastal resiliency program. This program spotlights the need for increased resources for ocean and coastal resilience, and takes a positive step toward enabling coastal communities to better respond to changing ocean conditions such as sea level rise, and major disasters such as hurricanes and superstorms.

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The Most Important Congressional Action on the Ocean You’ve Never Heard of http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/11/15/the-most-important-congressional-action-on-the-ocean-youve-never-heard-of/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/11/15/the-most-important-congressional-action-on-the-ocean-youve-never-heard-of/#comments Fri, 15 Nov 2013 13:00:07 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6955 Aerial view of San Miguel Island of the Channel Islands, California

Photo: Jonathan Hubbell / Photo Contest 2011

Right now, Congress has a major opportunity to protect our ocean and coasts. It can create a National Endowment for the Oceans and safeguard the existing National Ocean Policy in one fell swoop.

How? Well, it’s a tale of two bills.

The House and the Senate both recently passed versions of a bill called the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), but their versions are different. The Senate version would establish a National Endowment for the Oceans (NEO), which would expand scientific research, provide planning and resource management, restore habitat and much more. Conversely, the House version not only fails to establish this endowment, it guts the existing National Ocean Policy (NOP) that ensures smart use of ocean resources.

Soon, a committee made up of members of Congress from both chambers will come together in a “conference” to combine the two bills into a single final version. The ocean will either get a big win or suffer a big loss.

What’s at stake?

Following the recommendations of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, NEO would invest in our ocean’s future. The endowment authorizes grants to state, regional and tribal entities as well as academic institutions and nonprofit organizations to support ocean and Great Lakes research and restoration projects such as:

  • Restoration of wetlands, coral reefs, sea grass beds and watersheds
  • Mapping, monitoring, observation and modeling of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes systems
  • Adaptation to the impacts of climate change and mitigation of coastal hazards, including infrastructure protection
  • Research and monitoring of ocean acidification, hypoxia and harmful algal blooms
  • Conservation of sensitive marine, coastal and Great Lakes species and their habitats
  • Baseline data collection, ecosystem assessments and mapping for use in planning for new sustainable ocean uses and protecting ecosystem health
  • Planning for sustainable coastal development

To put the importance of this work into perspective, consider that scientists estimate that we’ve explored less than 5 percent of the ocean, that 91 percent of ocean species remain undiscovered, and that we have better maps of the surface of Mars than we do of the United States’ territorial ocean waters.

Moreover, NEO’s investments would create jobs and support coastal economies. They would also ensure that present and future generations benefit from the ecological, economic, educational, social, cultural, spiritual, nutritional and recreational resources of our ocean, coasts and Great Lakes.

Then, there’s the NOP. When it comes to making decisions that impact our ocean, every tool should be on the table for gathering and sharing information. The NOP is one of those vital, common-sense tools. It allows the entities responsible for ocean use planning to coordinate with each other, increasing efficiency and reducing redundancy.

The NOP also pushes ocean and coastal management out to the regional level, putting ocean management decisions in the hands of on-the-ground people and businesses that will be impacted by ocean management decisions. In the words of Sen. Edward Markey, opposing the National Ocean Policy is like opposing air traffic control.

Attacks on the NOP have ranged from hyperbolic to hysterical, with the latest one coming in the form of an amendment to WRDA offered by Rep. Bill Flores, who is not from a coastal district.

The “Flores rider” attempts to block full implementation of the NOP. It would prohibit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a key coastal and ocean management agency, from coordinating with coastal states, other federal agencies and the public as they engage in smart ocean planning.

Banning coordination between the Corps and these entities is misguided. Smart ocean planning is currently being used by several states – from Massachusetts to Oregon – with great success. Imposing such an arbitrary restriction harms states, the Army Corps, and the ocean and coastal economy.

A healthy ocean provides employment, direct economic benefits, recreation, wildlife habitat, cultural identity and indirect economic services like protection from natural disaster. Ocean Conservancy staff members are working hard on Capitol Hill to make sure the final bill is a win for the ocean and the people who rely on it. You can help by telling your member of Congress to support the National Endowment for the Oceans and oppose the anti-National Ocean Policy Flores rider in the WRDA bill.

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Senator Booker Can Be a Champion for the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/10/31/senator-booker-can-be-a-champion-for-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/10/31/senator-booker-can-be-a-champion-for-the-ocean/#comments Thu, 31 Oct 2013 19:31:45 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6907

Photo: Nick Harris via Wikimedia Commons

Following his recent win in the special election, Cory Booker was sworn in today as the new junior senator from New Jersey. Booker will be filling the seat formerly held by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, whose distinguished career in the Senate included extensive work as a champion for the ocean. We want to congratulate the new senator, but also take a moment to highlight some of the important ocean issues that impact his home state of New Jersey and lay out our hopes for his time in the U.S. Senate:

  • A year ago, Superstorm Sandy illustrated the need for maintaining coastal resilience in mitigating the impacts of storms and bringing back communities, especially in New Jersey. Getting funding for restoration projects was surprisingly contentious last winter, but that battle highlights the need for the state to be represented by someone who will fight for the resources New Jersey needs to increase and maintain the resilience of their coastal communities.
  • The president’s National Ocean Policy (NOP) provides the best opportunity yet to create a comprehensive blueprint for our ocean and coastlines, accounting for offshore energy development, recreational and commercial fishing activities, and the improvement and maintenance of our coastal resilience. Supporting the policy and the funding of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body is essential for the health and well-being of New Jersey’s ocean and coast.
  • Simultaneously, New Jersey needs its new senator to stand strong in defending against attacks from those who oppose improving ocean and coastal management. The most recent example is a damaging House of Representatives amendment to the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) which is currently being debated in Congress. This amendment would restrict some parts of the federal government from participating in smart ocean planning or ecosystem-based management – efforts where its presence is vital.

Senator Booker has large shoes to fill as he begins his career in the Senate. However, by supporting strong policies that stand up for the health of New Jersey’s ocean and coastal environment, Senator Booker can be an environmental leader for both his home state and our nation as a whole.

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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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A New Ocean Champion in the Senate http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/17/a-new-ocean-champion-in-the-senate/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/17/a-new-ocean-champion-in-the-senate/#comments Wed, 17 Jul 2013 14:30:29 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6297

Credit: U.S. Senate Photo Studio

Few members of Congress past or present have done more for ocean conservation than Ed Markey. During four decades in the House of Representatives, then-Congressman Markey fought for and achieved significant environmental victories.

Following his recent win in the Massachusetts special election, we wanted to highlight how the Bay State Democrat, and the newest senator, has been an ocean champion throughout his career:

While it is sad for us at Ocean Conservancy to see the House of Representatives lose one of its true ocean champions, we congratulate Ed Markey on his new position in the Senate and look forward to him continuing the fight for effective ocean protection and conservation now in his new role in the Senate.

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