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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Inouye's marine-debris bill backed by Commerce Department

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

The U.S. Department of Commerce strongly supports Sen. Dan Inouye's bill to expand the federal government's role in researching and controlling marine debris, although thus far there has been no commitment to pay for the measure's $15 million annual cost.

"This is a good bill that addresses a very important problem. We are grateful for Senator Inouye's leadership in moving it forward and we hope to see it passed," said NOAA Director of External Affairs Jeffrey Donald.

Inouye's Marine Debris Research, Prevention and Reduction Act would establish a new program on marine debris within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, expand Coast Guard authority to enforce prohibitions on pollution from vessels, and set aside $15 million annually for the effort from 2006 to 2010. The measure unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Committee staffer Andy Davis said Inouye will continue to push to get the measure approved by the full Congress.

Donald said the administration supported an earlier version of the bill that passed the Senate last year, but failed in the House.

"We have worked very closely with the senator on this bill as we share his view on the importance of marine debris clean-up," Donald said.

NOAA has run several marine debris efforts, including an extensive multiagency program each summer to remove nets, ropes and other debris from beaches and reefs of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

"The bottom line is that whether or not there is a specific line item (as created by this bill), we are committed to addressing this problem and we look forward to building upon our successes," Donald said in an e-mail.

Both Donald and Davis said they expect there will be money for continued NOAA marine debris projects at some level, but that detailed information on how much can't be determined now.

"We anticipate that there will continue to be congressional support for marine debris activities at NOAA. ... However, we cannot anticipate how much funding will be available for this because it is too early in the appropriations process for the allocations to be determined," Davis said.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.