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  Geotimes - April 2007 - Ocean budget surges

Ocean budget surges

Ocean science could soon see a surge in funding, the Bush administration announced Jan. 26. Under the fiscal year 2008 budget request, priority ocean projects would receive a budget increase totaling $143 million, countering the otherwise flat budget for earth science (see Geotimes online, Web Extra, Feb. 9, 2007).

The request comes more than two years after the Bush administration rolled out the Ocean Action Plan, a series of priority projects and research intended to advance ocean and coastal health. The additional funding called for in the 2008 request would see agencies through the remaining 11 of the total 88 priorities outlined in that plan. Funding would also go toward 20 ocean research goals identified in the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy, a plan released by the administration Jan. 26 that lays out ocean research priorities for the next decade.

The request specifically calls for the $143 million for ocean research to be divided among NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Science Foundation. NOAA would receive $123 million of that, to be distributed among ocean science and research, marine and coastal protection and restoration, and efforts toward sustainable use of ocean resources.

Within the ocean science and research category, NOAA plans to appropriate $8 million for exploration — predominantly mapping — of the far reaches of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Currently, the OCS in the Gulf of Mexico region is defined under federal jurisdiction as parts of the shelf up to 370 kilometers from shore, according to the Minerals Management Service. That definition also says, however, that “if the continental shelf can be shown to exceed 200 nautical miles” (370 kilometers), then federal jurisdiction would not exceed beyond about 560 kilometers from shore.

With the $8 million, NOAA plans to employ several new exploration vessels, along with multi-beam and side-scan sonar technologies, to map the shelf beyond 370 kilometers from shore to learn more about its geologic makeup. The research could help the United States “assert jurisdiction” over this extended region of the OCS, as well as the $1.2 trillion worth of resources estimated to exist within the shelf, according to NOAA’s fiscal year 2008 Budget Summary.

NOAA also plans to use $20 million to address four of the 20 items laid out in the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy that the ocean community agreed are the more urgent, near-term priorities to be pursued in the next four years. They include efforts to better forecast the coastal response to extreme events such as hurricanes and pollution, to collect data on marine ecosystems to aid in resource management, and to better understand ocean circulation changes in the Atlantic Ocean, which have been linked to past sudden climate shifts.

Kathryn Hansen

"Terrain flat for '08 budget," Geotimes online, Web Extra, Feb. 9, 2007
"Call for ocean policy overhaul," Geotimes, February 2004

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