American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program

Update on Sea Grant Reauthorization (11-6-98)

President Clinton signed the National Sea Grant College Program Reauthorization Act of 1998 into Public Law 105-160 on March 9, 1998. Sea Grant is a matching grant program, located in NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, which supports coastal and Great Lakes research at universities and other institutions. The law, introduced as S. 927 by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), reauthorizes the National Sea Grant College Program for five years. It authorizes $56 million in FY1999; $57 million for FY2000; $58 million for FY2001; $59 million for FY 2002; and $60 million for FY2003.

In addition to these allocations, the new law allows additional authorizations for competitive, peer-reviewed research into the problems of zebra mussels, oyster disease, and Pfiesteria piscicida. Specifically, $2.8 million was authorized for research in to zebra mussels, which were accidentally introduced into the Great Lakes in the 1980's and have caused serious environmental and economic damages as they disrupt water treatment plants' water intake facilities. In addition, $3 million is available for research on Pfiesteria and other harmful algal blooms, and an additional $3 million is available for research on oyster disease and oyster-related human health risks.

The new law also incorporates recommendations made by the National Research Council in a recent review. The law clarifies the responsibilities of the Program Director, outlines the duties of the Sea Grant institutions conducting Sea Grant programs, streamlines the grant process, and requires that all research be peer-reviewed.

An interesting sidenote to the passage of the bill was an amendment by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to include Lake Champlain as one of the Great Lakes with regards to Sea Grant -- in order for schools in Vermont to receive Sea Grant funding. The provision has been criticized by many, including Senator John Glenn (D-Ohio) who stated: "I know the Great Lakes. I've traveled to the Great Lakes. And Lake Champlain is not one of the Great Lakes." Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI) introduced legislation (S. 1738 ) on March 10 to amend the new law to exclude Lake Champlain. The bill has no cosponsors and has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Sources: House Science Committee, Library of Congress

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Contributed by Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs
Posted March 16, 1998; Last updated November 6, 1998

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