Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has introduced H.R. 4788, a companion to S.1390 introduced by Senator Daniel Inouye and Senator Daniel Akaka to authorize and increase appropriations for the Coral Reef Conservation Act through FY 2012. The U.S. Senate passed S.1390 on December 15, 2005. The House will now consider this legislation which is cosponsored by Congressman Neil Abercrombie and Ed Case of Hawaii, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, Congressman Luis Fortuno of Puerto Rico, and the Ranking Member of the House Resources Fisheries and Oceans Subcommittee, Congressman Frank Pallone.
“I want to thank my colleagues in the House and Senate who have worked so hard to protect our country’s coral reef areas,” Faleomavaega said. “The coral reefs are absolutely vital to our coastal and island areas.”
“In American Samoa, the reefs provide protection from storm surges and waves, helping to prevent erosion of our shorelines. The coral reefs sustain the livelihood of our local fishermen and the fishing industry. The reefs also maintain the ecological balance of our waters, providing nutrients and acting as a nursery for the sea life crucial to our survival. A beautiful, healthy coral reef also supports our tourism industry.”
“This legislation is important because it recognizes the importance of protecting our nation’s coral reef areas and expands funding and programs to ensure our coral reef’s future protection,” the Congressman said. “In addition to the increase in appropriations, H.R. 4788 makes changes to the uses and allocation of grant funding to reflect emerging needs and increased overall authorization levels. The coral reef measure also includes new community based planning grants that allow the development and implementation of coral protection plans.”
The bill also expands the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) emergency response authority to mitigate sea vessel coral reef impacts. Currently NOAA is only able to administer grants to support these activities. Under this legislation, NOAA would manage damage mitigation and vessel removal activities directly.
“In the past, we have had vessels that were shipwrecked and abandoned on the reefs that damaged the reefs for years because of uncertainty over who had the authority to clear the wreckage. This legislation clarifies NOAA’s authority to act in these situations to prevent this type of situation from recurring.”
“I commend Senator Inouye and Senator Akaka for taking the lead on this issue and I am pleased to support their efforts by introducing this companion bill in the House,” the Congressman concluded.