CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, October 24, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 295 under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. H.R. 295 was introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK) on January 12, 2011, and was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, which reported the bill by unanimous consent on June 15, 2011.
H.R. 295 would authorize the appropriation of $7 million each year for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to conduct activities related to the measurement and description of features that affect maritime navigation. The bill would authorize $5 million annually to acquire hydrographic data, provide hydrographic services, conduct coastal change analyses necessary to ensure safe navigation, and improve the management of coastal change in the Arctic. In addition, the bill would authorize the appropriation of $2 million annually to acquire hydrographic data and provide hydrographic services in the Arctic necessary to delineate the United States extended Continental Shelf.
According to CBO, current law (P.L. 111-386) authorized the appropriation of $182 million in FY 2012 for NOAA to carry out hydrographic activities. H.R. 295 would authorize NOAA to use $7 million of those funds to carry out the Arctic hydrographic activities described in the bill for FY 2012. The bill would authorize an additional $7 million for FY 2013 and CBO estimates that carrying out that project would cost $7 million over the FY 2013 – FY 2016 period, assuming the appropriation of the authorized amount.
According to House Report 112-157, Hydrographic surveys—which are essential measurements and maps of navigable seaways—support a variety of maritime functions including safe navigation, port and harbor maintenance (dredging), coastal engineering (beach erosion and replenishment), coastal zone management, and offshore resource development. Data collected through surveys show water depth (bathymetry) and object detection. These surveys can also provide information on sea-floor texture and composition (sand, mud, and rocks) to assist in anchoring, dredging, marine construction, pipeline and cable routing, tsunamis, and storm surge modeling. Hydrographic surveys can also support other National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) missions including fish habitat characterization, bottom type classification, and submerged cultural resources management.
NOAA currently has the resources, between in-house and contract vessels, to conduct hydrographic surveys for 3,000 square nautical miles a year. This equates to less than 1 percent of Navigationally Significant area surveyed each year. At this pace, the Hydrographic Services Review Panel (HSRP) concluded that it would take 166 years to survey just the areas routinely transited by federal, commercial and recreational vessels. NOAA's goal is to achieve the capacity to survey and process 10,000 square nautical miles annually. The HSRP reports that this would put the Navigationally Significant areas on a 50-year resurvey cycle—an inadequate, but achievable, survey schedule according to the Committee Report. Limited survey work has occurred in the Arctic. According to testimony given by NOAA, most Arctic waters that are charted were surveyed with obsolete technology, some dating back to the 1800s. In addition, the northern and western coasts of Alaska have not been mapped since 1960, if ever, and confidence in the region's nautical charts is extremely low.
According to CBO, implementing H.R. 295 would cost $7 million over the 2013-2016 period, assuming appropriation of the authorized amount.