NERRA Endorses President’s Budget for NOAA

NERRA Endorses President’s Budget for NOAA

The National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA), which represents the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), strongly endorses the FY2022 President’s Budget Request for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In particular, NERRA urges Congress to adopt the President’s request for $42.5 million for the NERRS FY 2022 Operations, Research, and Facilities budget—a $14 million increase over FY 2021—and appropriate $10 million for the NERRS Procurement, Acquisitions, and Construction budget.

The NERRS has shaped the management and protection of estuaries for nearly half a century. Coastal communities nationwide recognize Reserves as “go to” places for high quality, long-term monitoring data; science guided by local needs; training and technical assistance for decision makers and businesses; science education for teachers and students of all ages; and innovative approaches to habitat stewardship. The NERRS placed-based, integrative approach makes the System uniquely positioned to build on its current work to further advance climate resilience on the coasts.

By leveraging Reserve commitment to sharing local advances in research, education, training, conservation, and stewardship across a national network, the proposed FY2022 budget will catalyze a powerful magnifier effect that will benefit coastal communities around the nation. It will draw on decades-in-the-making trust communities have in Reserves and deliver immediate benefits to decision makers in critical need of strategies to adapt to a changing climate. The budget also will strengthen the robust partnership networks each Reserve has built to insure its local resources are more resilient in perpetuity. Most importantly, it will yield returns that benefit everyone, as the lands and waters that the Reserves protect support jobs, contribute to revenues, and build economic resilience.

With the proposed FY2022 budget, the NERRS will fulfill the blueprint drafted by the congressionally initiated Blue Ribbon Panel, which provided a vision for this time-tested, highly-valued program, as well as recommendations to optimize its effectiveness. This increased investment could not be more timely. As the impacts of climate change intensify, Reserves must be resilient and ready for the challenges to come. The proposed budget will enable Reserves to strengthen science, training, education, and monitoring programs that already serve local, regional, and national climate priorities. More specifically, it will build their capacity to work with NOAA partners to deliver the following:

  • Expanded monitoring to understand the impacts of climate change and other disruptions on estuaries and communities. The NERRS System-Wide Monitoring Program is the only national network to integrate management priorities with site-based monitoring to provide standardized measures of how coastal conditions are shifting over time. This capacity for long-term monitoring across a national system of representative habitats allows Reserves to detect early warning signals, inform proactive adaptation strategies, and share data to support estuary management nationwide. The budget will enhance NERRS ability to track sea level rise and changes in habitats, including salt marshes, mangroves, eelgrass and other submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), and freshwater coastal wetlands. It also will enable Reserves to track other climate change impacts on coastal habitats, including, for example, the interactions between SAV and ocean acidification.
  • Expanded training, technical assistance, and tools that communities need to mitigate the impacts of climate change, recover from environmental disruptions, and continuously adapt to new normals.  Currently, the NERRS provides training, technical assistance, and science to more than 13,400 people in more than 2500 coastal cities and towns and 570 businesses nationwide. The proposed budget will enable Reserves to bring these benefits to more communities and support them as they move beyond climate resilience planning into implementation.
  • Critically-needed, collaborative science to advance community and environmental resilience, particularly in the fields of blue carbon, living shorelines, and the economics of adaptation. This investment will expand NERRS capacity to serve as a unique network of living laboratories for estuarine science. It also will strengthen flagship programs, such as the NERRS Science Collaborative, that deliver science and tools when and where they’re needed most. Through the Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Research Fellowship Program, which provides science to meet community needs related to nationally significant issues, the NERRS will continue to prepare the next generation’s coastal science and management workforce.
  • Innovative stewardship to support habitat management and conservation, resilient built and natural infrastructure, and improved water quality. NERRS monitoring and science combine with 1.3+ million acres of estuarine lands and waters to create unique test sites for innovative climate adaptation strategies. The investment will support the restoration, acquisition, and maintenance work needed to conserve these places today and as the System expands. It also will support habitat change analyses, vulnerability assessments, and the development of resilience plans for Reserves and the habitats they help protect as they migrate in response to sea level rise.
  • Education programs that engage more teachers, students, and citizens in real-world climate challenges, teach them to apply data and critical thinking, and empower them to be coastal stewards. Reserve education currently delivers field training, curricula, and local data to more than 90,000 students and 3,000 teachers each year. The investment will expand the NERRS Teachers on the Estuary Program to serve more schools, teachers, and students.

NERRS expansion as recommended by the congressionally directed NERRS Blue Ribbon Panel Report. With the proposed budget, the NERRS will welcome a 30th Reserve in Connecticut and continue to explore Reserve designation in Louisiana, Wisconsin, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In addition, NERRA strongly supports the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) and Services budget line under NOAA’s National Ocean Service to ensure that NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management continues to provide high quality data, tools, and technical support needed by the NERRS and other CZM Programs, including research fellowship programs and an accessible, useful Digital Coast Partnership.

Estuary Caucus Explores Living Shorelines

Estuary Caucus Explores Living Shorelines

Living shorelines built with oyster shells stabilize the shoreline and provide critical habitat.

Join the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Estuary Caucus, Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Rick Larsen (D-WA), and Brian Mast (R-FL) on Thursday June 17, 2021, 3:00 to 3:40 EST for a virtual briefing on nature-based infrastructure solutions for coastal communities.

Hear from coastal restoration professionals about projects that have improved community resilience and helped shape the way we think about infrastructure along our coasts.

Speakers will include Brandon Puckett, NERRA board member and research coordinator at North Carolina’s Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve; Alicia Lehrer, executive director of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council; Duane De Freese, executive director of the Indian River Lagoon Council and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Partnership; and John Floberg, marine habitat resource specialist at NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation. The briefing will be moderated by Daniel Hayden, president and CEO of Restore America’s Estuaries.

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Bipartisan Digital Coast Act Passes

Bipartisan Digital Coast Act Passes

On December 3rd, the bipartisan Digital Coast Act, introduced by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Lisa Murkowski (AK), passed the Senate. This action was taken after last month’s House vote to pass this bill, after previously passing a House bill sponsored by Representatives Dutch Ruppersberger (MD) and Don Young (AK). This act will help communities along the coasts of the oceans and Great Lakes better prepare for storms, cope with varying water levels and strengthen economic development. The bill now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“The risk of coastal floods for our most vulnerable communities is on track to triple by 2050,” says Rebecca Roth, executive director of NERRA. “The Digital Coast Act will ensure that critical information is not only available to coastal communities around the country, but also reaching the communities and people who need it so they are better prepared to manage this risk. We are deeply grateful to Senators Baldwin (WI), Murkowski (AK), Sullivan (AK), and Cantwell (WA) and to Representatives Ruppersberger (MD), Young (AK), Huffman (CA), Bishop (UT) and Gonzalez-Colon (PR) for supporting this important legislation.”

The Digital Coast, hosted by NOAA, is a collaborative and publicly accessible online database of the most up-to-date coastal data and tools. NERRA, along with seven other non-profits, are part of the Digital Coast Partnership, which ensures that its operation is of the greatest use to the NERRS and the communities we serve.

The Digital Coast Act will authorize the next phase in coastal mapping at NOAA, critical information to address bluff erosion, high lake levels, and economic development needs. The bill also supports enhancing the current database to increase access to uniform, up-to-date data to support emergency response, long-term coastal resilience, and water resource management.

“The Digital Coast Partnership is government done right,” says Roth. “It provides statutory authority for a proven approach to creating community access to data, planning tools, and training that improves the capacity and skills needed to enhance our collective resilience and better manage our nation’s estuaries.”

DC Download: September 2020

DC Download: September 2020

The Federal government’s new fiscal year starts on October 1. The House of Representatives passed a resolution to continue the current budget through Dec 11, 2020, until a budget for FY2021 can be passed. This bill is now with the Senate, for passage prior to the October 1 deadline.

With the glow of National Estuaries Week still shining, NERRA is celebrating estuary heroes everywhere—including those in Congress—with this video. We are grateful to the NERRA board members, friends, volunteers, and partners for their work on behalf of estuaries and to those members of the House and the Senate who signed bi-partisan resolutions in support of National Estuaries Week. In particular, we thank Representative Larson and Senator Whitehouse and their staff for their leadership on the resolutions.

Restore America’s Estuaries/Coastal States Organization 2020 Summit attendees have an opportunity to hear from congressional appropriations committee staff members Melissa Zimmerman and Darren Benjamin, NERRA President Lisa Auermuller, and NEP Director Rachel Rouillard Oct 2 @ 5 pm in a  virtual session.  The Building Partnerships with Congress to Manage and Restore Estuaries and Coasts session will be kicked off by Estuary Caucus Co-chairs Representative Rick Larsen (WA), Representative Bill Posey (FL), Suzanne Bonamici (OR), and Brian Mast (FL).

DC Download: December 2019

DC Download: December 2019

Thank you to our Congressional champions for the proposed FY2020 funding bill H.R. 1158, scheduled to be voted on today in the House and tomorrow in the Senate. And thank you to all the NERRds who continue to speak up on behalf of their Reserve and our system. The bill includes $27.5M for NERRS Operations—a $500K increase from FY19—and $4.5M for NERRS PAC, a $2.6M increase from FY19. We appreciate the vote of confidence from our senators and representatives!

Also, with a bipartisan vote of 262-151, the House of Representatives passed a 10-bill legislative package (H.R. 729) on December 10th. This omnibus contained numerous ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes programs, including the NERRA–supported Digital Coast Act (H.R. 2189). 

The package expands programs and increases funding for the National Sea Grant College Program (H.R. 2405); Great Lakes Fishery Research (H.R. 1023); Living Shorelines, Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System (H.R. 1314); Tribal Coastal Resiliency (H.R. 729);  Keep America’s Waterfronts Working (H.R. 3596); and National Fish Habitat Conservation through Partnerships (H.R. 1747).

DC Comes to Kachemak Bay

DC Comes to Kachemak Bay

Amy Kirkland, Sea Grant Fellow to Senator Lisa Murkowski, got some firsthand experience with electrofishing & juvenile salmon on her recent visit to Kachemak Bay Reserve.

Senator Lisa Murkowski’s Sea Grant Fellow, Amy Kirkland, paid a visit to the Kachemak Bay Reserve last week. On hand to greet her were Reserve staff and members of the Kachemak Bay Community Council.

Together, the group took Amy on a tour of the KBNERR Harmful Species program, which monitors the bay for harmful invasives and toxic algae blooms that impact recreational shellfish harvesting and the Alaskan shellfish industry, valued at $12.8 billion annually.

They also visited a headwater stream where Reserve staff, along with members of the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust, were able to showcase Reserve research and support work for juvenile salmon.

Amy jumped right in (literally) to help with some electrofishing, and got to see the baby salmon up close. She was pretty sure Senator Murkowski would have enjoyed the experience!

Kudos to Kachemak Bay staff and friends, who were able to express their gratitude for Senator Murkowski’s ongoing support of the NERRS and share how that support makes a difference for Alaska’s human and ecological communities. 

Thank you Amy, for making the very long trek, and thank you Senator Murkowski!

Amy inspects juvenile salmon alongside KBNERR manager Coowe Walker.

Congressional Champions