Feb. 20, 2018
Congress and the Administration have been working on a proposal for the federal government’s new budget year, which begins on Oct. 1 and is referred to as Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. Since Congress is not able to complete the FY 2018 spending bills by that deadline, the House and Senate have passed continuing resolutions to keep the government operating at funding levels from FY 2017. The current measure will expire on March 23.
That will mark nearly a year since the Administration released its FY 2018 plan, which kicked off the full budget deliberations process. As part of the original plan, announced in May, the Administration proposed eliminating Wisconsin Sea Grant, and its fellow programs in coastal states around the nation. On Feb. 12, 2018, the Administration released its budget proposal for next year, FY 2019. It again proposes the elimination of Sea Grant.
Last year, the elimination proposal sparked an outpouring of support for Sea Grant. Many stakeholders, partners, collaborators and friends spoke up about the value of the program when it comes to Wisconsin’s Great Lakes communities. They know full well that Sea Grant funds lakes Michigan and Superior research, and the application of the research to ensure the sustainable use of these crown jewels that underpin the quality of life and economy of our state.
Regarding FY 2018, members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation, and officials elected in other states, heard the messages. As it stands now, the Senate budget-writing committee’s version of the FY 2018 budget includes $76.5 million for Sea Grant and the full House has voted to provide $70 million to this locally focused, federal-state partnership program that fosters healthy and resilient coastal economies. Once March comes, we are hopeful the two houses of Congress will have settled on a common funding level and the important work of Sea Grant can go forward.
In Wisconsin, we can demonstrate over and over the merit of our efforts. There are numbers: From 2014 to 2016, Sea Grant received $3.6 million in core federal dollars that were matched by $1.8 million in state investment. That leveraged investments of $3.9 million in additional state, federal and outside funding. Currently, those funds are supporting 22 Sea Grant research projects on 10 Wisconsin campuses and providing statewide outreach through our extension activities. Initiatives include assessments of flood risk; conducting research on and providing awareness training related to dangerous waves and rip currents; providing assistance to the shipping industry to maximize its infrastructure; exploration of new harvest methods for commercial fishermen; and the transfer of skills and knowledge to the state’s growing $21 million-aquaculture industry.
There are also first-person stories:
· “Wisconsin Sea Grant is leading efforts to engage and collaborate with elected officials related to water quality topics in the broader Green Bay area. That work is one of countless examples of the great work of Sea Grant specialists.”
· “UW Sea Grant has been a leader in the fight against invasive species. At times, it seems that it has not been enough, but in reality without Sea Grant there would be no agency out there taking the lead in what appears to be the No. 1 negative impacting issue facing the Great Lakes.”
· “Wisconsin Sea Grant has been indispensable in supporting research on the Great Lakes; no other state or federal agency has supported science in a comprehensive and coordinated way to further the wise management, conservation, and restoration of Great Lakes ecosystems.”
· “Wisconsin Sea Grant has also been indispensable in developing careers of scientists who focus their interests and energies on the Great Lakes.”
What you can do. If interested, you can contact your Representative and Senators by phone, email or attend one of their town hall meetings to thank them for their past support for the National Sea Grant College Program and stress the support needs to continue for FY 2018 and FY 2019. For details on how to reach the members: For the House of Representatives, you can easily search for names of members of Congress and its contact information. For the Senate and its contact information.
Director, Wisconsin Sea Grant