Our Oceans Get a Down Payment
Summer has ended, but Congress is still thinking of the ocean. On Sept. 21, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a landmark bill that would provide a dedicated source of funding for projects to restore and protect the marine environment off our coasts.
Our oceans and freshwater bodies, such as the Great Lakes, provide half of our oxygen. More than 2.3 million Americans earn a living that depends on the ocean and its resources. Yet when poorly planned development degrades our shoreline, or industrial accidents wreck marine ecosystems, there is no easy way to restore the environment.
The legislation would create a National Endowment for the Oceans, funded by interest on fines for violating water pollution laws. This money would then be used to study, protect and restore U.S. oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes.
In 2003, the Pew Oceans Commission released its final report with several key recommendations, including the need to fund ocean restoration. Last year, President Barack Obama established a national ocean policy to guide the 20 federal agencies with jurisdiction on the water. But to achieve lasting improvement in ocean health, steady, long-term funding is needed. Advancement of the National Endowment for the Oceans is an important step toward that goal.