Coastal states may reap federal funds
With the world’s oceans and coasts facing growing challenges from sea-level rise, ocean acidification and increasing temperatures, the U.S. Senate took action last week to protect America’s vital ocean resources. The Senate voted 68-31 to approve an amendment offered by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse authorizing an endowment for the oceans, coasts and Great Lakes.
The proposal was approved as an amendment to legislation reauthorizing the Water Resources Development Act. When funded, the endowment would make grants available to coastal and Great Lakes states, local governments, planning bodies, academic institutions and nonprofit organizations. The grants would support research, restoration and conservation efforts, including projects to restore habitat, manage fisheries, plan for coastal development, enhance ocean monitoring, acquire coastal properties for preservation, and relocate critical coastal infrastructure.
“At a time when our coast and shoreline in Rhode Island has been battered and beaten by coastal storms this year and the current budget situation at both the state and federal levels is stark, having a fund that is dedicated to the oceans and the issues we face in the coastal zone would be a godsend at this point and is critically needed,” said Grover Fugate of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council.
The Endowment would be administered by the secretary of commerce and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
In 2010, maritime activities like fishing, energy development and tourism contributed $258 billion to U.S. gross domestic product and supported 2.8 million jobs. Shoreline counties, which include many of our biggest cities, generated 41 percent ($6 trillion) of the country’s GDP.
“The strength of our national economy is tied to the health of our oceans and coasts, and both are imperiled by warming waters, bigger storms and acidifying seas,” said Whitehouse. “This endowment, when funded, will help preserve and restore the great bounty our oceans and coasts provide – from fishing and tourism, to research and recreation. I’m grateful to my colleagues for their support in this time of need in coastal states like Rhode Island.”
Whitehouse previously introduced stand-alone legislation to establish the endowment earlier this year. Last year, the Senate voted for a fully funded version of the endowment as part of legislation to help Gulf Coast states recover from the BP oil spill. The endowment was ultimately stripped out of the bill during the House-Senate conference process.
“The Endowment represents an exciting step forward for our clean water resources in this country,” said Raymond Marshall, executive director of the Narragansett Bay Commission. “Water knows no boundaries. That’s why an integrated, national approach to protection and conservation is so critical.”