Whitehouse Provisions to Protect Ocean Health, Strengthen Coastal Resiliency Head to the President’s Desk
Whitehouse secures major oceans package and bipartisan water resources measure in year-end defense bill
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) tonight voted to pass the FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has now cleared Congress and is expected to be signed into law by President Biden. The must-pass defense bill incorporates Whitehouse’s sweeping oceans package and the bipartisan water resources legislation that Whitehouse helped shepherd through the Senate in July.
“Today’s a great day for our oceans. The package we included in the NDAA is the most comprehensive oceans legislation set to become law in decades, and it’s the result of tireless advocacy from oceans champions and resolve from leaders in Congress,” said Senator Whitehouse, a co-founder of the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus. “Combined with a strong annual water resources bill that will improve coastal resiliency, this year’s NDAA makes smart investments in the future of the Ocean State.”
The FY2023 NDAA passed the Senate today on an 83-11 vote. The NDAA was cleared by the House on December 8.
The BLUE GLOBE Act, a bill sponsored by Whitehouse and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), was incorporated into the NDAA. The BLUE GLOBE Act will accelerate marine technology innovation, promote a stronger maritime workforce, and bolster the blue economy. Also included in the NDAA is the National Ocean Exploration Act, which Whitehouse co-sponsored, to update national priorities for ocean mapping and exploration. Several other key oceans measures made it into the legislation, including efforts to protect marine mammals and harden defenses against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) also passed alongside the NDAA. Whitehouse helped draft the package as a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the measure. Whitehouse and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) secured several key provisions benefitting Rhode Island in the legislation. ,
The Senators included a provision mandating a report from the Government Accountability Office on the disparity between coastal and inland U.S. Army Corps projects. Whitehouse and Reed secured inclusion of provisions that would improve fish passage and habitat restoration on the Lower Blackstone River. The Senators also supported a provision that would amend the National Dam Safety Program Act to create a nationwide inventory of low-head dams, which can be a safety hazard for kayakers and swimmers.
In addition, Whitehouse successfully requested $53.9 million in additional support for the Navy’s Columbia-class nuclear submarine program, a program which Senator Reed has provided essential support for over many years and which supports thousands of jobs at Electric Boat’s Quonset facility.
Whitehouse has a record of success in securing bipartisan oceans wins in the NDAA. In last year’s defense bill, Whitehouse partnered with Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) to strengthen maritime security provisions related to IUU fishing. Whitehouse’s provision ensured the Department of Defense and Coast Guard have the legal authorities needed to conduct joint maritime law enforcement operations to combat IUU fishing.
In the FY2021 NDAA, Whitehouse championed measures that required the Department of Defense to update Congress on efforts to tackle IUU fishing, directed the Navy to work with the Coast Guard to assess solutions for tracking vessels engaged in unlawful activity at sea, and requested that the Office of Naval Intelligence provide an update on foreign governments using distant-water fishing fleets to undermine American interests.
Meaghan McCabe, (401) 453-5294
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