The Blog Aquatic » WRDA http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:00:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 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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Challenges of a Changing Ocean: Can Congress Act in Time? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/12/04/challenges-of-a-changing-ocean-can-congress-act-in-time/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/12/04/challenges-of-a-changing-ocean-can-congress-act-in-time/#comments Wed, 04 Dec 2013 18:44:22 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7073

Credit: NOAA


The piece below was excerpted from an article by Tom Allen in Roll Call. Allen is the president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers and a Board member of Ocean Conservancy. He represented Maine’s 1st District in Congress for six terms and was a founding member of the House Oceans Caucus.


 

In a Congress marred by gridlock and partisan brinkmanship, a surprising opportunity has emerged to strengthen our nation’s ocean and coastal communities, businesses and environment. Congress should seize the moment and establish the long-recommended National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts and Great Lakes.

Unless Congress acts now, the opportunity will slip away.

The House and Senate Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) bills currently in conference contain competing provisions — with competing visions — for the future of ocean and coastal management in America. This legislative conflict is part of our country’s broader ideological struggle, but with this difference: On the ocean, no state government, chamber of commerce or environmental group can exercise coordinated and effective leadership alone.

The WRDA conferees and Congress should choose thoughtful long-term engagement to protect and enhance ocean quality over the all-too-common knee-jerk hostility toward any new government initiative.

Ironically, ocean issues didn’t generate such partisan conflict until recently. As a founding member of the bipartisan House Oceans Caucus, I can say that working across the aisle on ocean issues used to be far more commonplace. For example, the idea of a permanent ocean endowment was proposed back in 2004 by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy — a commission appointed entirely by President George W. Bush. When the commission first floated the idea of an ocean trust fund in a draft report and asked governors for comment, support was overwhelming and bipartisan. Of the 20 coastal governors who submitted comments on an ocean trust fund, 19 supported the idea — six Democrats and 13 Republicans. Only one Democratic governor expressed any opposition.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.

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Divers and Ocean Advocates Across the Country Speak Out for NEO, NOP http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/11/27/divers-and-ocean-advocates-across-the-country-speak-out-for-neo-nop/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/11/27/divers-and-ocean-advocates-across-the-country-speak-out-for-neo-nop/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 14:57:09 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7011

Photo credit: Heal The Bay flickr page

Recently, I told you about the opportunity that Congress now has to create a National Endowment for the Oceans (NEO) and safeguard the existing National Ocean Policy (NOP). The heat is on, as the members of Congress that will decide the fate of these provisions in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) convened last week. Since then, the chorus of voices calling for Congress to take these vital steps to protect our ocean has grown exponentially.

More than 74 diving groups, dive shops and individual divers – including prominent figures such as Sylvia Earle and Ocean Conservancy Board Member Philippe Cousteau – sent a letter to the WRDA conferees today. Here’s an excerpt:

“As divers, we see firsthand the incredible beauty and, too often, the increasing burden our oceans face.… The WRDA conference will consider two provisions that significantly impact our nation’s oceans and coasts and the economies that rely on them. We support the Senate-passed National Endowment for the Oceans, which would help improve ocean health and maximize the economic benefits these resources provide our nation. We oppose the House-passed Flores rider, which would place damaging restrictions on the use of common-sense ocean management tools like ocean planning and ecosystem-based management found in our National Ocean Policy. To maximize the benefits of a healthy ocean and its vibrant economy, we urge you to include the NEO provision and strike the Flores rider from WRDA.”


These divers share a common belief that everyone benefits from a healthy and productive ocean. Few people witness the threats that our ocean faces more intimately than divers do every time they go below the surface. From ocean acidification’s effect on corals and shellfish to the staggering scope of the marine debris problem to the shifting of marine life due to rising ocean temperatures, divers see these impacts firsthand. They know that we badly need the smart ocean-use planning that the NOP facilitates and the funding for critical ocean research and restoration that the NEO would provide.

The diving community’s letter joins another letter sent to the WRDA conferees last week from Ocean Conservancy and more than 200 organizations and individuals from around the nation stressing the need for the conference committee to get this bill right.

We’ll continue to monitor the progress of WRDA as the conference committee meets in the coming days and weeks, but it’ll take a concerted effort from ocean advocates across the country to ensure that Congress establishes NEO and stands strong in supporting the NOP. You can add your voice to the hundreds who have already weighed in here.

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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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