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Pallone: Federal Funding Leaves Oceans and Coasts High and Dry

Location: Washington, DC

Pallone: Federal Funding Leaves Oceans and Coasts High and Dry
November 16, 2005

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), ranking Democrat on the House Resources Fisheries and Oceans Subcommittee, today issued an open challenge to the Bush administration and the Republican Congress to fully fund ocean and coastal programs following the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP).

"For what it costs to fight the war in Iraq for just nine days, this Administration could have fully funded the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy's first-year recommendations to begin the process of restoring our coastal waters, beaches, and fisheries," Pallone said. "It's time to turn things around and make the investments we need for our oceans and coasts."

In a year filled with devastating natural disasters like the tsunami in Southern Asia and the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, the Republican Congress -- following the budget blueprint laid out by the Bush administration -- chose to shortchange ocean and coastal programs by cutting them over 30-percent from the previous fiscal year.

"We are now in a financial and ecological situation where we are doing costly triage on the Gulf Coast," Pallone continued. "If we can learn anything from this season's hurricanes, it should be that we need sound measures in place to protect our coastal resources and communities."

The overall lack of investment in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) so-called "wet programs" comes only a year after the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP) submitted its final report entitled An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century, which called for "a new and modest investment over current funding levels".

Pallone's comments came just before Retired Admiral James Watkins, chairman of the USCOP, was scheduled to testify during a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on the reauthorization of a national fisheries management law known as the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Admiral Watkins is expected to call on Congress to implement the Commission's recommendations for reforming the way we manage this nation's fisheries.

"How do the Bush administration and the Republican Congress think NOAA will meet the challenges outlined by its own Commission when offered less, rather than more, investment in its ocean and coastal programs? When will Republicans stop asking for the Commission to reiterate its well-detailed recommendations, and give NOAA the support it needs to move forward?" Pallone asked.

"No one disputes that these NOAA programs are important," he continued. "But for districts like mine which are dependent on the coastal environment for jobs and quality of life, it is unfair to ask NOAA's ocean, coastal and fisheries budgets to shoulder the financial burden caused by inept mismanagement of the satellite program - a travesty which is only likely to get worse in the years ahead."

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