Science News

Omnibus Bill Includes Provisions Supporting NOAA’s Arctic Activities

Several provisions within the year-end budget bill to fund the U.S. federal government could lay the groundwork for increased research and investment in the Arctic. Included are provisions to spur construction of a Polar icebreaker, support research both onshore and offshore, and increase safety in Alaska’s waters.

 

The following summary of provisions was provided by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. She is also Co-chair of the Senate Arctic Caucus.

Improving Navigational Aid and Weather Forecasting

• Increases funding for NOAA to conduct hydrographic surveys (or sonar mapping) of the nation’s coastline. Attached to that funding is a provision from Senator Murkowski emphasizing the need for Arctic mapping and setting hard deadlines with the federal agencies responsible in the region.

• Senator Murkowski included a provision to examine the benefit that electronic navigational buoys would provide to vessels transiting the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea.

• Requires the National Weather Service to identify any disparity in forecasting occurring in Alaska compared to the Lower 48, as well as to identify what resources are necessary to correct it. Alaska and the Arctic have some of the harshest weather in the nation, but also less forecasting than the Lower 48.

• Requires NOAA to identify the gaps in Arctic weather and sea ice observations as well as a strategy to minimize buoy outages in the future. Alaska suffers buoy outages that can take months if not years to correct. These buoys are needed for commercial fisherman, recreation, tourist vessels, and international commerce.

Investing in Arctic Infrastructure

• Provides $7.2 million towards a new heavy polar icebreaker.
• Includes $640 million for the construction of a ninth National Security Cutter.
• Provides $480,000 for the Army Corps of Engineers investigation funding of the Kotzebue small boat harbor.

 

Military Support

• Provides $2.5 million for the development of new Arctic camouflage to support U.S. Army Alaska.
• Funds the USCG at $10.8 billion, $1 billion more than the President’s request, to improve readiness, modernize vessels and aircraft, and improve the quality of life for service members.
• Requires a report to ensure consistent USCG presence in the Bering Sea, particularly as Arctic activities increase.

 

Arctic Awareness

• Directs the Department of the Interior to work cooperatively with local stakeholders to enhance economic opportunities for the people who live and work in the Arctic region.
• Requests the National Science Foundation provide a biennial report on federal activities in the Arctic so lawmakers and the public can better understand the work being done in the Arctic to identify information gaps and opportunities for greater coordination.

 

For more information, click here.

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