Appropriations Committee Passes Funding For Tsunami Warning System

Schatz Secured Over $26 Million In Appropriations For Tsunami Preparedness

Washington, DC – Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Appropriations advanced the Fiscal Year 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, which provides funding for important public safety programs.  U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) secured $26.88 million in the bill to strengthen the tsunami warning system that protects Hawai‘i and coastal communities across the nation.  The funding allows the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP) to coordinate the efforts of federal, state, and local agencies to protect coastal residents and visitors across the Pacific.

“The recent earthquakes in the Pacific have shown us that strengthening our tsunami warning system is more important than ever,” Senator Schatz.  “This important investment in tsunami warning technology will help protect Hawai‘i’s communities and save lives.

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration proposed a $6 million cut to the NTHMP.  Senator Schatz led six Senate colleagues in restoring the funding to protect the nation’s coasts.  At Senator Schatz’s request, the Appropriations Committee also included $5 million for a new coastal resilience grant program and report language to strengthen the network of buoys that detect and warn when tsunami threaten.  

Through NTHMP, State Civil Defense has funded a number of critical activities for Hawai‘i resilience, including:

  • conducting three-dimensional modeling and producing extremely accurate tsunami inundation maps;
  • providing support and materials to assist all counties and six communities (Kailua, Kaneohe, Ewa Beach, Hauula, Pearl Harbor Air & Naval Base, and Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i) in achieving the TsunamiReady rating;
  • publication of the Homeowner’s Guide to Prepare for Disasters and the Hawai‘i Boaters Safety Guide; and
  • establishment of tsunami evacuation routes and signage throughout the state. 

These funds also support local multi-language radio Public Service Announcements and provide for the development and production of outreach materials for residents, visitors, tourists, and special needs groups.

In addition to the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, Senator Schatz was able to secure funding for the following programs that increase the resilience of Hawai‘i’s communities, ecosystems, and animal life: 

Improving Regional Weather Monitoring Capabilities – $29.5 million

The bill directs $29.5 million to regional operations for the Integrated Ocean Observing System.  The continuous real-time data streams provided by the national IOOS program and PacIOOS, Hawai‘i’s program, improve weather forecasting and ensure the safety of fishing fleets and communities across the nation and in Hawai‘i and the Pacific.   These programs also help researchers monitor global climate change.  This research helps coastal communities develop adaptation strategies.  Senator Schatz was also able to include language in the bill to protect the jobs of Information Technology Officers, who perform critical support functions at Weather Forecast Offices across the nation, including in Hawai‘i.  

Sustaining the Nation’s Coral Reefs - $36 million

Hawai‘i has some of the country’s largest and healthiest coral reefs, but these unique ecosystems are beginning to experience the effects of climate change, including ocean warming and acidification.  These effects threaten the health of coral reefs and the fish that rely on them.  Senator Schatz ensured $26 million in funding for NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation program, which provides funding to state agencies and community organizations in Hawai‘i and other coastal states to remove invasive species, reduce land-based sources of pollution, and restore fisheries, fishponds, and coral reefs.  The bill also provides $10 million to National Marine Fisheries Service programs to protect invertebrate species, such as endangered corals, across the nation and in Hawai‘i.   

Protecting Marine Endangered Species – $113.4 million

Senator Schatz secured funding for research, conservation, recovery, and protection of endangered marine species, including species unique to the Hawai‘i region: the Hawaiian monk seals ($49 million nationally) and Hawaiian sea turtles ($12 million nationally).  These funds help mitigate the impacts of climate change and other human activities on these endangered species and support local research and management activities, including activities at the Marine Mammal Center Ke Kai Ola Monk Seal Hospital on Hawai‘i Island.  Senator Schatz also helped ensure that the Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas will be funded at $49 million, $1.8 million above the President’s request.  The Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas program provides funding for the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and the Humpback Whale Sanctuary in the shallow warm waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands.  The bill also provides $3.4 million in funds for the Marine Mammal Commission, which is charged with research and management of protected species of marine mammals.

Strengthening Coastal Habitats – $73.55 million

The bill delivers $52 million to NOAA’s Community Restoration Program, which provides funding for local communities to manage coastal resources. The bill also provides $21.55 million for the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.  As extreme weather events become more and more common, Hawai‘i officials have recognized that estuaries have the capacity to provide natural resilience.  A new Hawai‘i site, Heeia, will soon join the coastal management system.   These programs benefit not just local marine life, but also local economies.  Restoration and protection of natural defenses in coastal areas help to provide flood control, prevent erosion, and protect homes and coasts from high waves and storm surges.

National Sea Grant College Program - $62 million

The bill directs $62 million to fund the National Sea Grant College Program. The University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program’s research, extension, education, and outreach activities contribute to sustainable coastal development and tourism, coastal problem resolution, and marine resource stewardship. 

Environmental Educational Programs - $27.2 million

Senator Schatz secured $27.2 million, $10.8 million above the President’s request and $4.8 million above the House’s request, for NOAA’s Office of Education to fund the Bay Watershed Education and Training program, which provides environmental education for Hawai‘i’s K-12 students and professional development for Hawai‘i’s educators.