WASHINGTON – Coastal lawmakers announced Wednesday an effort to create a uniform national policy to protect oceans, coastal zones and estuaries.
The legislation is designed to replace current piecemeal efforts by federal agencies with a coordinated national plan.
“There have been a host of efforts to try to manage (coastal areas and oceans). In many cases there are overlaps and gaps,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. “This is an effort to pull all of this together and evaluate how we are going.”
The bill would authorize $6 million to create a 15-member commission to study ocean and coastal issues and report its recommendations for a national policy within 18 months.
A similar commission created under a 1966 law established the current policies.
“The results of that commission have served us well to this point,” said Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., the bill’s chief sponsor. “We need to take a fresh look at how the oceans can be made more productive.”
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md., is a co-sponsor of the House bill, which was drafted by Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J.
“Congress spends more money exploring outer space than it does exploring our own back yard,” Farr said at a Capitol Hill news conference.
The new commission’s policy recommendations would be carried out by a council comprised of department heads of 11 federal agencies.
The council, which would be headed by the commerce secretary, would report to the president.
Saxton, chairman of the House Resources subcommittee on fisheries conservation, said when it comes to Congress’ treatment of coastal areas, “We don’t have a lot to brag about.”