US Military Requests More Funding
For Unmanned Systems
Proposed spending for unmanned vehicle systems by the U.S. military totals $9.6 billion for 2019, an increase of 28 percent over last year, according to an analysis by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
Total funding requests for unmanned technologies across all defense agencies comprise about 1.4 percent of the Department of Defense fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget. Each military service—Navy, Air Force, Army—has requested a funding increase for unmanned systems.
The analysis finds that: the Navy requested the largest funding increase among the services, with about $1 billion more compared to 2018; funding for counter-UAS systems almost doubles from the previous year, with approximately $1.5 billion for FY 2019, and requests for maritime vehicles are approximately $1.3 billion; more than half the projects that involve unmanned vehicles across all domains of warfare (air, ground and maritime) are supported by the Navy; and, of the seven core technologies that enable unmanned systems operations, the largest proposed investment in FY 2019 is for integrated sensors and payloads, followed by navigation and control systems.
Trump’s Executive Order
Repeals National Ocean Policy
U.S. President Donald Trump repealed the Obama Administration’s National Ocean Policy with an executive order that emphasizes oil and gas drilling, although also mentioning environmental protection.
Republicans welcomed the move, having deemed Obama’s National Ocean Policy “over-reaching,” while conservationists are disappointed with Trump’s new executive order, believing it rolls back much needed protections for U.S. waters.
New Research Findings
On Protected Species in Atlantic
Results from the first phase of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) Atlantic Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species (AMAPPS I) are now available.
AMAPPS I was the first major assessment of protected species in the Atlantic since the Cetacean and Turtle Assessment Program in the 1980s and has greatly enhanced knowledge about the region’s marine life and ecosystem.
AMAPPS is a comprehensive multi-agency research program on the U.S. Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), from Maine to the Florida Keys, to assess the abundance, distribution, ecology and behavior of marine mammals, sea turtles and seabirds throughout the U.S. Atlantic OCS; to place them in an ecosystem context; and to provide spatially explicit density estimates to aid marine resource management decisions. Research highlights include: improved modeling calculations to help scientists address how often various cetacean species could be detected; identification of persistent, higher concentrations of marine birds off the Outer Banks, off eastern Long Island and in the Martha’s Vineyard/Nantucket region compared to other areas along the U.S. Atlantic; relatively high densities of loggerhead turtles were found in coastal waters from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to Long Island, New York, during the summer; and identification of a potential new spawning area for Atlantic bluefin tuna off the U.S. Northeastern Continental Shelf in an area called the Slope Sea.
AMAPPS I took place through an interagency agreement with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service and in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Navy.
The second phase, AMAPPS II, is taking place from 2014 to 2019 and continues to take direct aerial and shipboard surveys from northern Maine to Florida.
Researchers are also conducting acoustic surveys in U.S. coastal waters with hydrophones to record animal sounds.
The research applies to all three BOEM program areas: offshore renewable energy, conventional energy and marine mineral resource development on the Atlantic coast.
House Bill to Spur
Innovation in National Labs
The U.S. House passed H.R. 5907, the NIMBLE Act, without opposition. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), allows National Laboratories to more easily work with outside researchers by removing red tape in the Department of Energy approval process.
This legislation is part of a bipartisan effort to open up U.S. national labs to collaborate with more small businesses and be engines for national, regional and local economic growth.
Many small businesses cite the time it takes to enter into agreements as a major barrier when working with the labs. By cutting red tape and giving more discretion to laboratory directors, the NIMBLE Act should speed up the process for new businesses bringing ground-breaking ideas to the market, as well as give more access to smaller businesses and start-ups.
Late Hawaii Senator
The Inouye, the largest container ship ever built in the U.S., has been christened. It was built by Philly Shipyards for shipping company Matson Inc. and was named for Daniel K. Inouye, a former Hawaii senator, war hero and long-standing maritime champion.
“At a time when the U.S. maritime industry is fighting to keep its place among international competitors, this event was a momentous occasion,” U.S. Maritime Administrator Mark H. Buzby said about the ship’s christening. “Built for the Hawaii trade, the Inouye represents the blending of the most advanced technologies with proven American shipbuilding skills.”
For US Shipyards
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Maritime Administration (MARAD) made available $19.6 million in federal funding to support capital improvements and employee training at small U.S. shipyards. The grants are provided through the Small Shipyard Grant Program and help eligible shipyards modernize operations, increase efficiency and reap the benefits of increased productivity. The grants, to be awarded in July, are for U.S. shipyards with less than 1,200 production employees.
Pilot Program Allows States to Manage
Recreational Red Snapper Fishing in Gulf
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross commended the innovative, two-year pilot program that grants partial management responsibility of the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery to the five Gulf states. Red snapper caught by private anglers in state and federal waters off Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana and Texas will be covered by the program. The U.S. Department of Commerce and NOAA Fisheries encouraged the states to submit exempted fishing permit applications to test new and innovative ways to manage recreational red snapper fishing. The permits allow those states to manage recreationally caught red snapper in state and federal waters and test data collection methods. Each state will set its 2018 and 2019 private angling red snapper season, monitor red snapper landings, and close the private angling season when the state’s assigned quota is reached.
Royalty Rates to Stay the Same
For Offshore Oil, Gas for Now
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced that the Department of the Interior will not lower royalty rates for future offshore oil and gas lease sales at this time.
On February 28, the Royalty Policy Committee (RPC), re-chartered by Zinke in 2017, made its initial recommendations, including one to set a royalty rate of 12.5 percent on all Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) lease sales at all water depths through 2024. Since then, an improving economy, federal tax reforms, higher energy prices and greater regulatory certainty have led to positive market conditions, prompting Zinke’s determination to keep the royalty rate in 200 m of water and deeper at 18.75 percent.
US Coast Guard Tests
Eco-Friendly Buoy Moorings
The U.S. Coast Guard uses navigational buoys to direct water traffic and to protect vulnerable benthic ecosystems such as seagrass communities and coral reefs in U.S. waters. However, most buoys are currently attached to the seafloor by concrete anchors, also called sinkers, and heavy metal chains that can have just as significant an impact on marine life. Sinkers can damage life on the seafloor under their heavy footprint, and when the connecting chains are lax, they can scrape off seagrasses, seaweeds and corals around the sinkers as waves and wind push the buoys around.
The Coast Guard has been struggling to find a solution for more than 20 years. It reached out to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) for help. S&T organized a prize competition January 2016 that yielded a simple, effective buoy mooring system: Instead of a concrete sinker, Cole Keaoulu Santos, an innovator from Hawaii, proposed a narrow screw anchor; instead of a heavy metal chain, he suggested an elastic rope to prevent scraping of the seafloor. For the next two years, the Coast Guard will test the buoy moorings’ durability, then prepare a final report to support future decisions.
National Marine Sanctuary Foundation
Every year, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation honors individuals and organizations whose professional or personal accomplishments make a difference in ensuring a healthy future for the ocean and Great Lakes.
Gordon and Betty Moore received the Lifetime Achievement Award this year for their critical leadership on environmental conservation and science. Through their foundation’s work on scientific discovery, on-the-water conservation programs and using financial markets to support conservation, they are driving innovation.
Will Benson received this year’s national Volunteer of the Year Award. He works to build and strengthen partnerships between the recreational fishing community and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The BBC received the Conservation Innovation Award for the groundbreaking documentary series “Blue Planet II.” By introducing viewers to amazing species and seascapes and the challenges facing the ocean, BBC is inspiring new ocean guardians.
BSEE Proposes Reducing Regulations
On Blowout Preventers, Well Control
The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is proposing to update regulations covering offshore oil and gas drilling operations to improve reliability, safety, efficiency and environmental stewardship, and reduce unnecessary burdens on operators. BSEE reviewed the existing regulations in response to Executive and Secretary’s Orders. The Proposed Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control Rule was submitted to the Federal Register in April to open the 60-day public comment period.
BSEE analyzed all 342 provisions of the 2016 Well Control Final Rule and determined that 59 of those provisions—less than 18 percent of the 2016 Rule—were appropriate for proposed updating and revision. The proposed revisions would amend the testing protocol for blowout preventers, modify capability requirements for ROVs, remove duplicative verification requirements, and codify recent revisions to industry standards.
Trump’s 2019 Budget For BOEM, BSEE
U.S. President Donald Trump proposed a $179.3 million fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
In January 2018, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced the Draft Proposed Program (DPP) for the 2019 to 2024 National OCS Program, which proposes 47 potential lease sales for consideration, the largest number of lease sales ever proposed for a National OCS Program’s five-year lease schedule. Trump’s budget request includes $9.4 million to build a new National OCS Program that considers the 25 planning areas identified by the DPP and begins implementing the new program.
For the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), Trump proposed a $199.9 million FY 2019 budget. This includes an estimate of $67.9 million in offsetting collections. Offsetting collections includes $20.3 million for rental receipts, $3.8 million for cost recoveries and $43.8 million for inspection fees.
Texas’s First Federally Endangered Mussel Species
In February, the Texas hornshell mussel, Popenaias popeii, became the first among 15 state-threatened freshwater species to receive federal protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
A team of Texas A&M AgriLife scientists led by Dr. Charles Randklev in Dallas now works alongside collaborators from Laredo Community College and the Illinois Natural History Survey to better understand the species’ ecology and taxonomy. Their goal is to identify contributing factors to the Texas hornshells’ decline and provide data to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to aid in its protection and recovery.
There are places where Texas hornshell occurs in the Rio Grande where it is clear increases in water temperature and salinity are occurring. Impacts on these populations will likely worsen with climate change and increasing human activity in these regions. These mussels provide important ecosystem services to humans, and their decline will eventually affect human health issues.
Grants Target Impacts Of Derelict Fishing Gear
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced a request for proposals for the Fishing for Energy Grant Program, www.nfwf.org/fishingforenergy. Up to $2 million in grant funding is available to support strategies that reduce the impacts of derelict fishing gear in marine and coastal environments. The majority of awards under this program will fall in the range of $100,000 to $500,000.
Fishing for Energy launched in 2008 and provides anglers with cost-free solutions to dispose of old, derelict or unusable fishing gear.
Grants will target areas in U.S. coastal waters with state or regional plans that have identified and prioritized reductions in derelict fishing gear. Priority locations include: the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and other important habitat for sea turtles and marine mammals in coastal waters along South Florida; the Gulf of Maine, in areas that are identified as priority for northern right whales; Puget Sound, in priority habitat for killer whales as referenced in management plans; Hawaii, within the borders of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument; and areas along Alaska that are important to marine mammals and have disposal access points through Dutch Harbor or Kodiak Harbor.
MarineCadastre.gov Team Receives NSDI Award
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management announced that the Federal Geographic Data Committee has selected the MarineCadastre.gov team to receive the 2017 Doug D. Nebert National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) Champion of the Year Award.
MarineCadastre.gov is a geographic information system containing authoritative data that are fundamental to supporting decisions about the development of U.S. offshore conventional and renewable energy resources; use of Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) sand and gravel for shore protection, beach nourishment and wetlands restoration projects; and ocean coordination and planning efforts. MarineCadastre.gov provides data, web maps and specialized tools that are used by stakeholders to address national issues in the areas of energy infrastructure planning; ocean vessel navigation and safety; national defense; conflict avoidance involving ocean users; and maritime jurisdictions and limits.
FY 2018 Omnibus Bill Funds Science
The U.S. Congress has passed the fiscal year (FY) 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act. It includes increases to key science agencies and programs, such as the National Science Foundation at $295 million over FY 2017; NOAA at $234 million above FY 2017; NASA at $457 million above FY 2017; and the Department of Defense basic and applied research and technology development at $16 billion above FY 2017 and the Navy at $800 million above FY 2017. According to the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the omnibus provides funding for regional-class research vessels, unmanned underwater vehicle research, the National Sea Grant College Program, aquaculture research, NOAA’s Office of Education, support for implementation of the seafood monitoring program, and the establishment of the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund to help better understand and utilize the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes.
Supreme Court Makes Decision On WOTUS Challenge Jurisdiction
In January, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision concerning rule-making over the definition of “waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) under the Clean Water Act (CWA), or the WOTUS Rule. According to Van Ness Feldman, the WOTUS Rule, which redefined jurisdictional “waters of the United States” under the CWA, has far-reaching implications for project development across energy, water, agricultural, construction and transportation sectors.
Although the Supreme Court’s decision merely resolves a jurisdictional dispute between the federal courts of appeals and the federal district courts over which court has jurisdiction to hear challenges to the WOTUS Rule, the decision will result in the lifting of the existing stay of the WOTUS Rule, opening the door to disparate approaches to jurisdictional determinations under the CWA across the country.
The decision has significant implications for the fate of the WOTUS Rule and how federal agencies review permit applications that may affect jurisdictional waters under the WOTUS Rule. In particular, the numerous legal challenges to the WOTUS rule that were previously raised in district courts are likely to resume, but pending resolution of those challenges, implementation of the WOTUS Rule—which expands federal control over several types of water bodies—would be legally permissible.
Five Recipients Get Ocean Awareness Awards
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation announced more than $140,000 in Ernest F. Hollings Ocean Awareness Awards to protect endangered species, engage children in science and increase awareness about U.S. national marine sanctuaries.
The foundation selected five recipients for this year’s awards. Two projects—Space to Sea: A Photographic Journey into Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Robust Citizen Science Data for West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries—support the foundation’s goal to inspire stewardship of natural and cultural resources through U.S. marine and Great Lakes sanctuaries.
Three projects, funded with support from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service—School and Community Leatherback Sea Turtle Project, Killer Whale Tales: Kids Making a Difference Now, and Global Action Explorers: Empowering Students for Action on Ocean Acidification—bring awareness to endangered and protected marine species, in partnership with NOAA’s Species in the Spotlight initiative.
BOEM Issues Guide for Offshore Wind Design Approach
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) now has draft guidelines for the use of a “design envelope” approach in construction and operations plans for offshore wind energy facilities in the U.S. In order to take advantage of the rapid pace of technological development in the offshore wind industry, offshore wind developers have asked BOEM to adopt this practice, which is standard in some European countries, for permitting offshore wind energy projects. This would afford developers a degree of flexibility and allow them to make certain project design decisions—such as which turbines to use—at a more commercially advantageous time later in the project development process.
Last August, the Trump Administration announced Executive Order 13807 to streamline the review and permitting of infrastructure projects. The design envelope approach would allow BOEM to analyze the environmental impacts of the proposed project in a manner that could reduce or eliminate the need for subsequent environmental and technical reviews. The use of a design envelope is not mandatory. Design envelopes are an optional tool for prospective developers.
Trump Acknowledges Need To Invest in US Ports
In his first State of the Union address, U.S. President Donald Trump called on Congress to pass an infrastructure bill that generates $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments and streamlines permitting for major capital projects from 10 to two years, or possibly less.
In his focus on America’s “crumbling infrastructure,” the president placed a heavy emphasis on safe, reliable, modern transportation infrastructure, including roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways.
He also talked about two other issues important to ports: international trade deals and investing in workforce development and training.
Seaport cargo activity accounts for 26 percent of U.S. GDP and more than 23 million American jobs, and generates more than $320 billion annually in federal, state and local tax revenues. The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has identified $66 billion in federal port-related infrastructure investments over the next 10 years. These federal investments are necessary to supplement the approximately $155 billion in capital improvements that U.S. port authorities and their private sector partners are planning between 2016 and 2020.
Trump Announces Pick For USGS Director
U.S. President Donald Trump has nominated Dr. James Reilly of Colorado to be director of the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Reilly currently serves U.S. and allied militaries as an expert on space operations, and he is a technical advisor supporting the National Security Space Institute of the U.S. Air Force. Previously, Reilly held management positions in academia, as well as at TAEUS Corp. and PhotoStencil Corp. in Colorado Springs. He had a 13-year career at NASA. Prior to NASA, he was chief geologist at Enserch Exploration Inc., working projects around the world, including in Antarctica and on the continental slope of the Gulf of Mexico.
Timothy Gallaudet Confirmed As NOAA Assistant Secretary
U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominee for assistant secretary of NOAA, Dr. Timothy Gallaudet, has been confirmed by the Senate.
Gallaudet is a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy whose most recent assignment was oceanographer of the Navy and commander of the Navy Meteorology and Oceanography Command. During his 32 years of service, Gallaudet has had experience in weather and ocean forecasting; hydrographic surveying; developing policy and plans to counter illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing; and assessing the national security impacts of climate change.
Gallaudet holds a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and master’s and doctoral degrees from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in oceanography.
$9.8 Million in Grants For US Small Shipyards
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) awarded $9.8 million to 18 U.S. small shipyards through its Small Shipyard Grant Program. These investments support industrial modernizations that will increase productivity and allow the country’s small shipyards to compete more effectively in the global marketplace. The grants, which were primarily available to U.S. shipyards with less than 600 production employees, are generally less than $1 million each, but can make a huge difference in a shipyard’s bottom line.
US House FY 2018 Science Appropriations Bill Includes Ocean Research Funding
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), co-chair of the bipartisan Oceans Caucus, announced that her provisions to increase funding for research and monitoring of harmful algal blooms (HABs) and ocean acidification were included in the House bill to set funding levels for fiscal year (FY) 2018.
The two amendments were added to the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill. One amendment increases funding for NOAA’s National Ocean Service to do coastal monitoring and assessment of HAB, which can lead to toxins that shut down shellfish harvests. The other amendment increases funding for NOAA’s ocean acidification program to help coastal communities.
DEEP SEARCH Study of Deep Ocean Off US Southeast Coast
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NOAA are collaborating on a new 4.5-year study that will shed light on little-known natural resources of the deep ocean off the U.S. Southeast coast, DEEP SEARCH (Deep Sea Exploration and Research of Coral/Canyon/Seep Habitats), NOIA reported. The research is organized through the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), with TDI-Brooks International Inc. as the prime contractor for BOEM, and scientists from USGS and seven academic institutions participating. There are three planned collaborative deep-sea expeditions over the next three years. BOEM will obtain new scientific data to inform environmental reviews and offshore energy decisions; USGS and NOAA will gain new scientific understanding of the region’s physical and biological resources.
NRDC Report Seeks Clean Energy Scenario For US by 2050
In the face of U.S. President Donald Trump’s climate retreat, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released an ambitious blueprint to dramatically increase energy efficiency, cut greenhouse gas pollution 80 percent from 1990 levels, raise wind and solar power generation to 70 percent, and usher in a clean energy future for the U.S. by 2050.
“America’s Clean Energy Frontier: The Pathway to Safer Climate Future” report relies on existing technologies and envisions curtailing energy use 50 percent through efficiency and electrification gains; raising fuel economy of gasoline-powered cars to 80 mi. per gallon (and 100 mpg for fleetwide); expanding wind and solar energy 13-fold; strengthening the electricity grid; electrifying buildings and cars to run with renewable energy; and a steep decline in nuclear power by 2050 through plant retirements.
Health and environmental benefits of the plan would include less extreme weather, heat waves and climate-induced illnesses.
Zinke Wants to Decrease Protected Sites And Allow Commercial Use
A copy of U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s secret recommendations for the nation’s monuments and sanctuaries under review was obtained by The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. According to the memo, Zinke is recommending shrinking the borders of six monuments and ocean preserves and opening up four others to uses such as commercial fishing, logging and coal mining.
Rose Atoll near American Samoa and the Pacific Remote Islands west of Hawaii monuments would see their size reduced to allow for commercial fishing. For the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Zinke is recommending modifying its management plan to allow for commercial fishing there as well.
New Industry Association Hires Lobby for Ocean Businesses
IOSTIA, the International Ocean Science and Technology Industry Association is a new 501(c)(6) industry association representing businesses that provide technology and services for sectors that sustainably and commercially utilize the oceans.
It has engaged the bipartisan government relations and lobbying firm USGRI.com to plan and implement an aggressive public policy program aimed at Capitol Hill and the regulatory agencies in an effort to provide a unified industry voice in Washington, D.C.
With nearly two-thirds of blue-tech companies located outside of North America, this new industry association will also be international in scope and substance. The IOSTIA government relations plan will be heavy on engaging the foreign embassies located in Washington to assist international companies entering the U.S. economic and regulatory markets.