A Special Message from the Director of Alaska Sea Grant

Updated May 9, 2017

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salmon in a river

5/25/17 update

The White House released its full 2018 budget plan this week and, as expected, it calls for the termination of the National Sea Grant College Program.

In a “skinny” budget released in March, the Trump Administration also targeted Sea Grant for elimination in fiscal year 2018.

National Sea Grant receives about $73 million from Congress annually for research, education and outreach in 31 coastal states, and Guam and Puerto Rico. In return, it creates some $575 million in economic impact, an 854 percent return on investment.

Besides Sea Grant, the proposed fiscal year 2018 budget would also eliminate other programs within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration including the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, Coastal Zone Management Grants, the Office of Education, and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.

We have appreciated the Alaska congressional delegation’s opposition to the proposed elimination of Sea Grant and expect it to continue.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has described Sea Grant’s work as critical in Alaska and has introduced a bipartisan resolution expressing support for the program. Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) have written to the Office of Management and Budget, along with other senators, calling the proposed cuts “dangerous” and “drastic.”

Eighty-five members of the House of Representatives, including Rep. Don Young, signed on April 3 a “Dear Colleague Letter” to the House Appropriations Committee, urging strong bipartisan support for the full funding of Sea Grant in 2018.

Sen. Sullivan has stated publicly that the White House budget is simply a proposal and that Congress holds the purse strings of the government.

Rep. Young echoed that sentiment in a statement he issued Tuesday.

“I’ve served with nine Presidents—that's 45 budget proposals—and none of them really went anywhere. It’s the President’s duty to submit a budget to Congress, but it’s our responsibility to implement one and to set spending. Largely, this budget is a vision document and people shouldn’t get overly excited. If I had to sum it up quickly, I’d say this proposal was dead in Congress before the ink was even dry,” Young said.

We thank our supporters who have contacted the Alaska congressional delegation with their thoughts on how the Administration’s proposed budget would affect Alaska Sea Grant and its work in coastal Alaska. We encourage our supporters to continue to reach out in the months ahead as lawmakers craft the federal budget.

Check back for updates as the funding picture unfolds in Congress.

5/9/17 update

We are happy to report that Congress reached a spending deal for the rest of this year that keeps the National Sea Grant College Program’s funding in place. The White House had asked Congress to cut Sea Grant funding by 40% in FY17, essentially zeroing out the program mid-year. Many thanks to the Alaska congressional delegation for their support of Alaska Sea Grant and to everyone who contacted them, asking the members to oppose the Administration’s proposed cuts. Thanks also to Alaska’s Energy Desk for the continuing coverage.

Our focus turns now to the FY 18 budget for Sea Grant. The Administration has proposed to eliminate Sea Grant entirely. We will continue to keep you informed as the budget process continues by Congress through the summer. Thank you for your ongoing help!

4/11/17 update

Dear Alaskans,

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) today announced that they have introduced a bipartisan Senate resolution expressing support for the National Sea Grant College Program. The senators highlighted the importance of the program to improving the health of coastal ecosystems and sustaining fisheries, and its large economic impact in coastal and Great Lakes communities.

The Sea Grant program works in 31 states, including Alaska, and two territories to create or sustain more than 20,000 jobs and 2,900 businesses annually, and in 2015 had an economic impact of $575,000,000 from an investment of $67,300,000, an 854 percent return on investment.

“Sea Grant plays a vital role in Alaska and throughout our coastal communities, with the programs providing essential aspects of applied research, communication, extension, and education,” said Murkowski. “For more than four decades, the National Sea Grant programs have aided in spreading economic sustainability and environmental conservation of our nation's bountiful marine resources. Last year alone, Alaska Sea Grant programs accomplished great things, from pioneering health research through a study documenting fisherman health habits and chronic health challenges in the fishing industry, to encouraging environmental literacy through Alaska Seas and Watersheds school grants. I look forward to seeing that level of dedication to our local communities continue,” Murkowski said.

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate funding for the Sea Grant program in Fiscal Year 2018, which begins Oct.1. In contrast, the bipartisan resolution expresses the sense of the Senate that the National Sea Grant College Program is of vital importance to improving the economy, health, stewardship, and preparedness of the United States; an exceptional example of effective partnerships between federal, state, and local governments; and a valuable investment for the federal government.

Meanwhile, 85 members of the House of Representatives, including Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), signed on April 3 a “Dear Colleague Letter” to the House Appropriations Committee, urging strong bipartisan support for the full funding of Sea Grant in 2018.

These developments are good news and we thank our Alaska congressional delegation for their support.

However, we still do not know what will occur with the remainder of the 2017 budget or the FY18 budget. Congress began a two-week recess on April 7. Indications are that budget decisions for FY17 will be addressed when Congress reconvenes on April 25.

I remain hopeful that the House and Senate budgets will be favorable to Sea Grant as has occurred in all of its 50 years as an authorized federal program. But we can’t do it without your continued support. I encourage you to contact the Alaska congressional delegation and let them know your thoughts about Alaska Sea Grant and the Administration’s desire to end the Sea Grant program. See the one-page fact sheet about our work.

Please consider letting us know if you have contacted the delegation by sending us a copy of your email or letter.

Many thanks for all your support and we will continue to keep you informed of developments in Washington, D.C., as they pertain to Sea Grant’s funding.

Paula Cullenberg
Director
Paula.cullenberg@alaska.edu

How to contact the Alaska delegation

For the House of Representatives you can easily search for names of members of Congress and contact information here: http://www.house.gov/representatives.

For the Senate you can search here: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

3/31/17 original post

Dear Alaskans,

You may know by now that the White House seeks to zero out funding for all 33 Sea Grant programs across the country in Fiscal Year 2018.

In early March, we learned that the Trump Administration wants to cut 17 percent from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which houses Sea Grant. Under that cut, the Administration would entirely delete Sea Grant’s federal budget of $73 million.

Last Friday, March 24, the news got even worse. We learned the White House wants to also cut $30 million in Sea Grant funding from the current Fiscal Year 2017 budget. This would end the Sea Grant program this year.

Alaska Sea Grant generated $33,600,000 in economic impact during 2010 to 2015. For every $1 we receive from the federal government, we leverage an additional $4 from other sources. We deliver essential workforce development and educational services to thousands of Alaskans across the state, as summarized in our one-pager.

Alaska has 44,000 miles of coastline and more than 70 percent of us live along the shore. All Alaskans depend on healthy marine and watershed ecosystems. Alaska Sea Grant has enjoyed bipartisan support for nearly 50 years enhancing Alaska’s fishing and seafood jobs, training Alaska’s maritime workforce, conducting and sharing science with coastal residents, promoting marine literacy and being trusted to provide science-based information about coastal issues. We have delivered this through the strong partnerships forged with individuals, businesses, local and tribal governments, scientists, managers and community organizations statewide.

We have met with our congressional delegation. They know and support the work of Alaska Sea Grant. They encourage letters and calls from Alaska Sea Grant’s partners and stakeholders. We urge you to contact the Alaska congressional delegation and let them know about your experience with Alaska Sea Grant and your opinion about the Administration’s proposal to end the program.

Please consider letting us know if you have contacted the delegation by sending us a copy of your letter or email.

Thank you so much for your support of Alaska Sea Grant. We look forward to continuing to serve you and your communities for many more years to come!

Paula Cullenberg
Director
Paula.cullenberg@alaska.edu

How to contact the Alaska delegation

For the House of Representatives you can easily search for names of members of Congress and contact information here: http://www.house.gov/representatives.

For the Senate you can search here: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

Alaska Sea Grant is a statewide marine research, education, and outreach program, and is a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agents provide assistance that helps Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy marine and coastal resources.