Murkowski: White House Ocean Policy “Clear As Mud”

Senator Raises Concerns During Appropriations Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Murkowski – co-chair of the U.S. Senate Oceans Caucus – today expressed her frustration with the administration’s disorderly national ocean policy process during a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee, saying “it is as clear as mud to me where the administration is intending to take this.”  Murkowski also voiced her concerns over the Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP) program that the Obama administration has indicated it plans to proceed with despite the Senator’s defunding of the program.

Murkowski also thanked her committee colleagues for approving a key provision in the FY2013 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill that gives states authority to reject regional ocean partnership grants that are inconsistent with the state’s coastal management plan.

Click here for audio of Senator Murkowski’s remarks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIZIFMpeTLI

“I want to recognize the good work of the Chairman and Senator Hutchinson on this bill, particularly in the area of fisheries. We’ve had an opportunity to speak about that within the subcommittee the funding that is contained within the bill regarding fishery stock assessments, the pacific salmon treaty, the regional fishery management councils and marine mammals.  These are all incredibly significant not only to my state, but to the health of our fisheries and for the country. I also appreciate the language that is included that I have requested that gives Governors the ability to reject the regional ocean partnership grant funds to prevent them from being used in contradiction to state policy. I think it’s important that our Governors have that ability to weigh in. You have included that language, and I am very appreciative of it.

“We had an opportunity at the full committee mark up last year to talk about where the situation was going with the Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP).  The CMSP funds were zeroed out in the FY 12 budget. I still see many indications that the administration is continuing to move forward with all aspects of a national oceans policy – including CMSP. The Interior Department budget within BOEM has indicated that they are the lead within Interior for CMSP.

“We’ve also seen draft statements coming out of the national ocean policy implementation plan that identify a pretty exhaustive list of milestones, many for completion in 2013-2014. I’m concerned that not only do you have some pretty ambitious milestones, but also there is a price tag that comes with all of them. It’s expensive; there are no dedicated funds for agencies to follow through with the commitments that have been identified in the draft implementation plan.

“I have been told that the national ocean policy initiative is going to be absorbed by these existing programs, but yet the agencies haven’t been able to provide me with any indication as to what work is actually going to be set aside as part of that trade-off, so it is as clear as mud to me where the administration is really intending to take this.”