Friday, May 12, 2006


Hearing Held in Washington on Saxton's Ocean Exploration Legislation

May 05, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Jim Saxton’s "National Ocean Exploration Program Act" was the focus of a congressional hearing late yesterday reviewing the bill’s provision to establish two important ocean programs – the Ocean Exploration Program and the National Undersea Research Program.

"I’m delighted we were able to get a hearing on this," said Saxton (NJ-3rd) , Vice Chairman of the House Fisheries and Oceans Subcommittee which held the hearing. "It gives us momentum to get this bill passed and fund important scientific research. Although this legislation affects both coasts and the Gulf, it also impacts research off the Jersey Shore."

Both programs would be run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in consultation with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other federal agencies. Off the coast of Tuckerton, N.J. the Long-term Ecosystem Observatory at 15 Meters, known as LEO-15, is a one such program. Leo-15 is operated by Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, which was one of the organizations testifying at the hearing.

"The National Ocean Exploration Program Act encourages NOAA to explore archaeological sites such as shipwrecks," said Saxton. "These voyages will lead to greater discoveries regarding marine life and maritime history. The seas hold many secrets. They are the last unexplored frontiers on Earth."

Saxton’s bipartisan bill, H.R. 3835, extends the programs over 10 years with $30 million in annual funding, and intends to create better coordination between NOAA and NSF; expand ocean exploration to discover new marine substances that potentially have therapeutic benefits; study unique marine ecosystems, organisms and the geology of the world's oceans; and maximize ocean research effectiveness by integrating multiple scientific disciplines in the ocean science community.

The Ocean Exploration Program would support NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration. Its mission is to explore and map the ocean's living and nonliving resources, and to gain new insights about its physical, chemical, biological and archaeological characteristics. It engages in undersea expeditions, exploration projects and field campaigns to unlock the mysteries of the world's oceans.

NOAA's Undersea Research Program (NURP) has the unique ability to access the undersea environment with submersibles and technical diving, robots and seafloor observatories. NURP provides scientists with submersibles, remotely operated vehicles, autonomous underwater vehicles, mixed-gas diving gear, underwater laboratories and observatories, and other cutting-edge resources. NURP also provides extramural grants to both the federal and non-federal research community. LEO-15 is a NURP program.


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