The federal Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget plan includes significant reductions to most domestic programs, and a common theme across agencies appears to be the elimination of grant programs, particularly those supporting environmental protection and monitoring. Beyond reductions to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, other agencies involved in similar activities are also facing significant cutbacks.
On 16 March 2017, the Office of Management and Budget released the Trump Administration’s FY 2018 Budget Blueprint, which includes significant reductions for many domestic programs, particularly those supporting environmental issues. Notably, the blueprint for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “Zeroes out over $250 million in targeted National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant, which primarily benefit industry and State and local stakeholders,” adding that, “These programs are a lower priority." These grants represent 20% of the proposed reduction for NOAA, which totals nearly a billion dollars for FY18.
Revisiting Key Resilience Findings
In January 2017, DomPrep’s Preparedness Leadership Council (PLC) issued its report, Examining Coastal Resiliency: How Policy, Education, Partnerships, and Data Can Help Change the Future. This report presented key findings from a roundtable discussion – including representatives from state and local governments, emergency managers, and experts in academia who discussed current challenges facing coastal communities in developing resilience measures specifically related to the threat of sea-level rise and climate change. Anchoring the PLC’s discussion were presentations on improving regional partnerships and data sharing and analysis across all stakeholders. The report concludes with an action plan calling for greater communications and multidisciplinary data analysis that includes economic cost impacts affecting coastal as well as noncoastal communities across the country.
The plan also references the need for widespread integration of coastal resilience into other disciplines that will be affected by climate change – including infrastructure planning, civil engineering, etc. Underpinning these recommendations are NOAA’s coastal grant programs, which enjoy broad support not only from grant recipients but from local and regional stakeholders as well. A list of 2015-2016 grant recipients shows that these recipients target vulnerable communities, where the need to incorporate climate change data into community plans and policies is critical. NOAA’s website cites that its focus is on, “comprehensive regional approaches that use science-based solutions and rely on collaborative partnerships to ensure success,” which is echoed in the PLC report.
Current Grant Programs & Funding
“I’ve been really impressed with [NOAA’s Coastal Resiliency] grant program,” said Dr. James Hurley, director Wisconsin Sea Grant and current president of the 33-program Sea Grant Association during an interview on 14 March 2017. “It’s a program that tends to cross NOAA line offices due to the process involved in grant applications. It originates from NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS), but some of the final projects span other offices like Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR). That in particular is due to the success of Sea Grant as leaders or partners in six of the twelve funded projects.” A group of Wisconsin investigators recently submitted a proposal to the current fiscal year, which hopefully will further investigate coastal processes affecting Lake Michigan – including the nearly four-foot lake level rise in just the past three years.
Being an inherently multidisciplinary approach funded by a multidisciplinary agency, NOAA’s Coastal Resiliency Grant Program is well positioned to serve as an effective steward of grant funding supporting coastal resilience efforts and the PLC report’s Action Plan. Whether these funds will be eliminated remains to be seen as the FY18 budget is finalized in the coming months. Rest assured that the 39% of the U.S. population (and growing) that live in counties directly on the coastline will be [should be] aware of where the budget axe falls.