New Federal Budget Gives Nod to the Oceans

THE HEALTH OF THE NATION’S OCEANS AND COASTS has been one of the primary concerns of Rhode Island’s Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. To provide adequate funding to address those issues, Whitehouse first introduced the National Endowment Act in 2010, along with Senator Jean Snowe, which was designed to enhance America’s coastal and ocean resources through protection, research, and management.

After several evolutions the endowment bill was transformed into the National Oceans and Coastal Security Act, which is authored by Whitehouse, and included in the $1.1 trillion federal budget passed this December to authorize funding for research, conservation, and restoration of U.S. oceans and coasts.

“This is great for Rhode Island and all coastal states,” says Whitehouse, who is also the co-chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus. “The fund will support work that helps Rhode Islanders and all Americans understand and adapt to forces like sea level rise, severe storms, and ocean acidification, which threaten lives and economic prosperity in coastal communities across the country.”

Projects eligible for grants if funding for the program is appropriated can range from coastal infrastructure enhancements, habitat restoration projects and recreational and commercial fishing and aquaculture to research on the impacts from sea level rise, ocean acidification, and temperature change.

“The establishment of this fund gives those of us in [coastal and marine] research and management a cause for hope,” says Dennis Nixon, director of Rhode Island Sea Grant, praising Senator Whitehouse’s leadership in giving a voice to coastal and ocean issues.

The Act is intended to better understand and utilize the oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes to ensure that present and future generations will benefit from the “full range of ecological, economic, social, and recreational opportunities and services [coastal and marine] resources are capable of providing,” according to the bill. Although the National Oceans and Coastal Security Act has been authorized, “next year’s battle will be to secure funding in a meaningful way,” says Whitehouse.

Meredith Haas | Rhode Island Sea Grant Communications