Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut’s Ocean Champion

I love Connecticut. With March Madness bringing another incredible college basketball season to an end for the University of Connecticut Huskies (albeit championship-less yet again), stars like Paige “Buckets” Bueckers, Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa were all over ESPN’s highlight reels as usual.

I want to recognize another seasoned champion from my home state of Connecticut, who in my opinion does not always get the recognition she deserves—Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. She set the gold standard for our state, our country and our ocean by leading the effort to fight for robust funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In July 2021, the House of Representatives passed a budget that included historic funding levels for NOAA. Ultimately, the topline number came down through negotiations with the Senate but Congresswoman DeLauro and ocean champions in Congress still managed to secure nearly $5.9 billion in NOAA funding during the madness of the Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations process. This represents an 8% increase for the agency, which is great news for Connecticut residents, coastal communities and our nation.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro tweet
© Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro/ Twitter

Congresswoman DeLauro has represented Connecticut’s 3rd district for more than 31 years. In 2021, she began serving as the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee that oversees funding for the entire federal government. Under her leadership, the committee passed the largest single year proposed budget increase for NOAA ever.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro
© Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro/ flickr

NOAA is the nation’s premier climate and ocean agency and is responsible for researching, monitoring and protecting our marine and coastal ecosystems. NOAA’s world-class scientists and satellites generate our weather forecasts, monitor climate threats to communities, and provide early warnings that shield us from the deadly and costly effects of hurricanes, tornadoes and other extreme weather events. The agency’s innovative research and operations help ships navigate coastal waters, protect endangered marine life like whales and sea turtles and restore wetlands and reefs that provide millions of dollars in flood protection.

Though the Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations season just ended, the Fiscal Year 2023 season is already in full swing with the recent release of the Biden administration’s budget proposal which requests a total of about $6.9 billion for NOAA. That’s an increase of about $1 billion from the Fiscal Year 2022 budget to, according to the Department of Commerce: “catalyze wind energy, retore habitats, protect the oceans and coast and improve NOAA’s ability to predict extreme weather associated with climate change”. Soon we will once again turn to Congresswoman DeLauro to support the passage of this budget.
With nearly 24 million people living within 50 miles of Long Island Sound, Connecticut is heavily reliant on its resources. The State’s blue economy—sectors like fishing, ports and maritime, offshore wind, tourism, recreation and more—along with the regional blue economy, is worth more than $9.4 billion. It supports nearly 3,000 businesses and more than 54,000 jobs in the state alone. Tourism and recreation is the largest employment sector of Connecticut’s blue economy, providing 72% of ocean-related jobs.

Lighthouse and Boat at sea
© Rafeed Hussain

Nationally, the blue economy is valued at approximately $373 billion, and supports about 2.3 million jobs.The value of our ocean economy will only grow as the burgeoning offshore wind industry in the United States continues to rapidly expand thanks in part to the Biden administration’s ambitious goal to generate 30 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030. That’s enough electricity to power nearly 10 million homes and will create more than 77,000 jobs around the country.

With 618 miles of shoreline, it’s clear that the fiscal health of Connecticut is inextricably connected to the health of Long Island Sound and our ocean. Much of the funding that the state relies on to support ocean and coastal management—from fisheries to infrastructure—comes from federal-state partnerships and grant programs. The proposed budget makes key targeted investments to address climate change, ensure sustainable and climate-ready fisheries, advance responsible offshore wind development and begin to address the environmental justice and equity issues that are facing our coastal communities.

So, let’s make some (Long Island) sound! There is no fanfare or awards for boldly spearheading funding that will benefit communities, businesses and natural resources like there is for the NCAA tournament, but I think there should be for Congresswoman DeLauro. Other than throwing a huge party, which I would love to do, the best way to support her is to help pass the Fiscal Year 2023 NOAA budget—it is a team sport after all. Take action today by asking your members of Congress to advocate for robust NOAA funding.

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