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Capital Report


July 2014 Issue

Sen. Levin to Introduce Great Lakes Cultural Heritage Assessment Act
Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) announced at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation's (NMSF) 12th annual Ocean Awards Gala in June that he would introduce the Great Lakes Cultural Heritage Assessment Act in July. Levin's proposed bill would direct NOAA to identify underwater areas in the Great Lakes that possess significant historical and archaeological resources and consider recommendation for designation as national marine sanctuaries.

The bill followed an announcement from Counselor to the U.S. President John Podesta that NOAA is releasing the final rule reopening the Sanctuary Nomination and Evaluation Process. More information is available at www.NMSFo cean.org/sanctuary-nomination-process.

NOAA had not been able to accept nominations for new national marine sanctuaries since 1995.

Obama Signs WRRDA Into Law, Authorizes Georgia SHEP Project to Begin
After a seven-year hiatus in reauthorizing new U.S. water resources legislation, President Barack Obama signed the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) into law.

'This WRRDA legislation will produce a more efficient maritime infrastructure that strengthens our position as a global trade leader,' said American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) President and CEO Kurt Nagle.

Nagle lauded the leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works who crafted the new WRRDA legislation, along with the WRRDA reforms, that enables expedited navigation project studies, creates more flexibility for capital investment, advances construction on new maritime infrastructure, and establishes a means for donor port equity.

Nagle noted that by establishing targets for full use of the Harbor Maintenance Tax revenues for their intended purposes, 'Congress has achieved a major milestone by setting the bar for putting the 'trust' back into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.'

The signing of WRRDA authorized construction to begin on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP). Georgia will work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to define how the costs of the project, estimated at $706 million, will be shared between the state and federal government.

Georgia's government had set aside $266 million for construction.

Federal studies show that for every dollar invested in the port deepening, the U.S. economy will reap $5.50 in net benefits. Lower prices per container slot on Post-Panamax vessels will save U.S. companies moving goods through Savannah 20 to 40 percent on transportation.

US House Passes Reauthorization of Act to Control Algal Blooms, Hypoxia
The U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 1254, the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2013, which reauthorizes the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Act.

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) occur when colonies of algae grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds. The bill maintains and enhances an interagency program led by NOAA, which will be responsible for promoting a national strategy to help communities understand, predict, control and mitigate freshwater and marine HAB and hypoxia events; enhancing, coordinating and assessing the activities of existing HABs and hypoxia programs; providing for development of a comprehensive research plan and action strategy, including a regional approach to understanding and responding to HAB events; and requiring an assessment and plan for Great Lakes HABs and hypoxia.

'Authorization for the programs under the Harmful Algal Bloom Research and Control Act expired in 2010, so this reauthorization is long overdue,' said Subcommittee on Environment Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.). 'The rapid overproduction of algae can have devastating effects on aquatic plants and animals, as well as on human health. For coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems and communities that depend on fishing and tourism to sustain their economies, the effect of algae blooms is a threat to their livelihood. The cost of these blooms has been estimated to be around $82 million each year, a significant hit to the economy in areas that are still struggling to recover.'

The programs authorized by the act 'will become increasingly important as coastal populations increase and changes in the environment, such as warmer water temperatures, have the potential to alter the growth, toxicity and geographic distribution of algal blooms,' Bonamici said.

Ocean Champions Endorses Aimee Belgard for House New Jersey Seat
Ocean Champions, which works to build political power for the oceans by helping to re-elect pro-ocean candidates to the U.S. Congress, endorsed Democratic nominee Aimee Belgard for the U.S. House of Representatives seat being vacated by Rep. John Runyan (R-N.J.) in New Jersey's Third District. This district has been represented by Runyan, who opposes the National Ocean Policy, for the past four years.

Belgard, an environmental attorney, has a long career in local politics where she has prioritized environmental issues at all levels of state and local government. She aims to continue that record in Congress by working to expand alternative energy sources, curb pollution, and keep the Jersey coast clean for generations to come.

US House Passes Bill Prohibiting NOP Funding,
Increasing NOAA Weather Research Funding

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4660, making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015. The bill includes Rep. Bill Flores's (R-Texas) amendment that prohibits funds from being used to implement Executive Order 13547 (75 Fed. Reg. 43023, relating to the stewardship of oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes), including the National Ocean Policy developed under this Executive Order. Rep. Jim Bridenstine's (R-Okla.) amendment increases funding, by offset, for NOAA by $12 million for weather research.


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