08 • 04 • 2017

The Future of Coastal Management? Lawmakers Debate NOAA’s Budget

By Pete Stauffer

Earlier this year, our nation’s coastal communities (and others who love the coast) were greeted with some unsettling news. The Trump administration released a federal budget proposal in March that promised to slash funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the lead federal agency responsible for managing our nation’s ocean and coasts, as well monitoring weather and climate.

The impacts of these budget cuts would run deep and impact both our natural resources and the communities and businesses that depend on them. Most beachgoers reasonably assume that our government will make sure our coasts are publicly accessible, safe for activities like beach going, swimming and surfing, and protected from unwise development. Of course, it’s only when these protections are lost that we realize it’s too late.

In 1972, our federal leaders passed the Coastal Zone Management Act with strong bipartisan support. This landmark law is designed to ensure that our nation’s coastlines are protected for current and future generations. Currently virtually every U.S. state and territory (except Alaska) participates in the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) program, benefitting from federal funding and collaboration. Amazingly, the Trump administration’s budget proposal completely defunds the CZM program. This is just one of many examples of how proposed budget cuts would impact our coasts. Find out how federal level budget cuts have regional impacts at: The More You NOAA: Spotlight on Washington State

Since Surfrider’s last update on this topic, members of the House and Senate have begun their work to develop a congressional spending bill. Unfortunately, the House’s budget proposal is almost as damaging as the one released by the Trump administration. While the House version does include support for Sea Grant, Ocean Exploration, and National Estuarine Research Reserves, it would still cut funding for NOAA by $700 million, including a 50% slash to the Coastal Zone Management program.

The good news is that the Senate proposal is much stronger. The Senate bill includes level funding or slight increases for Coastal Zone Management, Climate Research, Fisheries Management and other core ocean and coastal programs. The Senate bill will likely not go to the floor for a vote, so the next step is for the House and Senate to negotiate a compromise between their competing bills. This “Conference Committee” process gives us an opportunity to fight for the Senate numbers, and a meaningful chance to get our priorities funded. Surfrider’s goal for the coming months is to ensure the final bill looks a lot more like the Senate than the House! 

Take action to defend our coasts!

All of us who support and benefit from the agency's efforts can play an important role in defending NOAA's work. Please call your Senate and House representatives in Washington D.C. and ask them to support critical funding for NOAA to manage our coasts and ocean and monitor weather and climate change. While you're at it, please also express support for the important work of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is also a target of the Administration and Congress (more background here). Join us and take action to defend the EPA and NOAA's Budget. Your beach, your health and even the jobs of millions of Americans could depend on it.