Jones Beach State Park after Sandy — Nicholas Mallos
Playing politics is nothing new in Washington, D.C. But earlier this week, while watching the debate on the Superstorm Sandy disaster relief package, after weeks of previous negotiation, I was reminded of a common phrase – it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, or in this case, $150 million of badly needed assistance.
Part of the House’s relief package included funding through NOAA for important tools that coastal states and regions can use to rebuild smarter and stronger – money for shoreline mapping, assessments of coastal flooding vulnerability, strategic restoration of habitat that provides protection from storms and flooding and assistance for state and local decision-makers to plan better for future disaster reduction. In such a divided Congress, this measure not only garnered bipartisan support, but the backing from groups like the Reinsurance Association of America (RAA).
That’s not an oil slick — it’s debris from last year’s Japanese tsunami that washed into the ocean. Credit: U.S. Pacific Fleet flickr stream
There’s plenty of trash talk on Capitol Hill these days – but probably not the kind you are thinking about. It’s not talk about the fiscal cliff or the elections, it’s all the recent talk on the Hill about ocean trash. Recently we heard that the government of Japan gave the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration $5 million to address the ongoing problem of marine debris that resulted from the 2011 tsunami, the President’s disaster request for Superstorm Sandy included a request for funds to assess marine debris and, perhaps the trashiest conversation of all, the House and Senate passed the Marine Debris Reauthorization Act.
Last Wednesday night, after months of hard work by staff in both chambers – and on both sides of the aisle – the Senate passed the Marine Debris Reauthorization Act as part of the Coast Guard Reauthorization bill. The House passed the bill last week. Perhaps you are wondering what reauthorization even means. (I’m not sure schoolhouse Rock covered this portion of lawmaking.)
Today, Alaska Senator Mark Begich introduced important new legislation that would establish a permanent program to conduct research, monitoring, and observing activities in the Arctic. If passed, Senator Begich’s bill could lead to significant advances in Arctic science that can then be used to support decisions about the management of a region that is crucial not only to the people who live there, but to the world.
Imagine if the United States could lay claim over vast stretches of pristine open ocean and coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean. What if we could expand our nation’s control over the marine environments in the Arctic, the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea? And how might it benefit our country if we could extend our existing maritime borders along the East Coast, West Coast and the Gulf of Mexico?
It would be like a giant ocean Louisiana Purchase. Except this time, the United States wouldn’t have to pay a dime.
Expansion of U.S. borders may seem like the stuff of history books. But what I’m talking about here isn’t history. And it isn’t fantasy. It’s a very real choice facing the U.S. Senate right at this very moment.