The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s activities in the Bay would be expanded under legislation sponsored by Sen. Paul Sarbanes D-MD. Joining Sarbanes in introducing the bipartisan legislation were Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, Sen. Chuck Robb, D-VA, and John Warner, R-VA.

“NOAA has played a critical role in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and its living resources,” Sarbanes said. “This legislation will expand upon NOAA’s successful efforts by beginning a new wave of Bay research, which will include an emphasis on an overall Bay restoration strategy.”

Since 1984, NOAA has supported scientific investigations, including fisheries stock assessments, algal bloom monitoring and the tracking of changes in tidal wetlands. This research has helped to improve the understanding of the impacts of climate, harvest and pollution on the decline of anadromous fish, oysters and other marine species in the Bay, as well as helped to develop management strategies for restoring living resources.

The recently introduced legislation would:

  • Authorize NOAA to carry out a small-scale fishery and habitat restoration grant and technical assistance program to help community-based organizations and local governments in the Bay watershed undertake habitat, fish and shellfish restoration projects.
  • Establish an internet-based Coastal Predictions Center for the Chesapeake Bay. The Center would coordinate and make better use of the various modeling and monitoring systems and new technologies to improve prediction capabilities and response to physical and chemical events within the Bay and tributary rivers. This could include data on weather, tides, currents, climate, land use, coastal environmental quality and habitat conditions.
  • Enable NOAA to undertake a special five-year study of the relationships between water and habitat quality, ecosystem health and food chains that support the Bay’s living resources. There is a growing consensus that research on the Bay must move toward a wider, multispecies and ecosystem perspective.
  • Move the administration and oversight of the NOAA Bay Office from the National Marine Fisheries Service to the Office of the Undersecretary of Commerce to take better advantage of the NOAA’s talents and avoid research duplication.
  • Increase the authorization for the NOAA Bay Program from the current level of $2.5 million to $6 million per year to enhance current activities and carry out the new activities under this legislation.