U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) issues this statement in support of the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill recently introduced by Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).
Several items in this bill are responsive to the Commission’s Summary Report on Goals and Objectives for Arctic Research 2007, delivered to the White House and Congress earlier this year. In that report, USARC called for an assessment of Arctic research infrastructure needs, research into oil spills in ice-covered waters, and appropriate investment in new research platforms, including icebreakers, and forward basing to support the nation’s Arctic research programs.
The $8.7 billion reauthorization bill would constitute a six percent increase in the Coast Guard’s operating budget, and includes $998 million for renovations to Coast Guard facilities as well as acquisition of new vessels and aircraft. The bill includes $100 million to operate and maintain the nation’s three existing polar icebreakers, including two heavy “polar class” ships, the Polar Sea and the Polar Star, nearing the end of their useful lives. The bill authorizes the Coast Guard to proceed with plans to construct two new vessels
Long-sought risk assessments for oil spills in the Aleutian Islands/southern Bering Sea region are included in the bill, as well as an increase in endowment funding for the nation’s long-term Arctic/sub-Arctic oil spill
research program, conducted by the Prince William Sound Science Center’s Oil Spill Recovery Institute.