[Senate Report 109-60]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

109th Congress                                                   Report
 1st Session                                                     109-60


                                                        Calendar No. 76



                              R E P O R T

                                 OF THE



                                 S. 361


        DATE deg.April 19, 2005.--Ordered to be printed

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                       one hundred ninth congress
                             first session

                     TED STEVENS, Alaska, Chairman
                 DANIEL K. INOUYE, Hawaii, Co-Chairman
JOHN McCAIN, Arizona                 JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV, West 
CONRAD BURNS, Montana                    Virginia
TRENT LOTT, Mississippi              JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts
KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, Texas          BYRON L. DORGAN, North Dakota
OLYMPIA J. SNOWE, Maine              BARBARA BOXER, California
GORDON H. SMITH, Oregon              BILL NELSON, Florida
JOHN ENSIGN, Nevada                  MARIA CANTWELL, Washington
GEORGE ALLEN, Virginia               FRANK LAUTENBERG, New Jersey
JOHN E. SUNUNU, New Hampshire        E. BENJAMIN NELSON, Nebraska
JIM DeMINT, South Carolina           MARK PRYOR, Arkansas
                    Lisa Sutherland, Staff Director
             Christine Drager Kurth, Deputy Staff Director
                      David Russell, Chief Counsel
     Margaret Cummisky, Democratic Staff Director and Chief Counsel
 Samuel Whitehorn, Democratic Deputy Staff Director and General Counsel

                                                        Calendar No. 76
109th Congress                                                   Report
 1st Session                                                     109-60




                 April 19, 2005.--Ordered to be printed


       Mr. Stevens, from the Committee on Commerce, Science, and 
                Transportation, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 361]

    The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, to 
which was referred the bill joint resolution deg. (S. 
H.R. deg. 361) to develop and maintain an integrated 
system of ocean and coastal observations for the Nation's 
coasts, oceans and Great Lakes, improve warnings of tsunamis 
and other natural hazards, enhance homeland security, support 
maritime operations, and for other purposes, having considered 
the same, reports favorably thereon without amendment 
with amendments deg. with an amendment (in 
the nature of a substitute) deg. and recommends that the bill 
joint resolution (as amended) deg. do pass.

                          PURPOSE OF THE BILL

    The purpose of S. 361, the Oceans and Coastal Observation 
System Act of 2005, is to establish a national, integrated 
ocean and coastal observing system that will collect, compile, 
and make available data on ocean conditions in the United 
States Exclusive Economic Zone, including the Great Lakes.

                          BACKGROUND AND NEEDS

    Advances in ocean and coastal science, management, and use 
are currently limited by a lack of real-time, comprehensive, 
and accessible data on key environmental variables such as 
temperature, currents, wind speed, wave height, nutrient 
concentration, salinity, and dissolved oxygen. The National 
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has emphasized 
that programs throughout NOAA do not have the basic 
environmental data they need to create effective models or 
conduct analyses used in the management process. Additionally, 
NOAA and other agencies need long term oceanographic databases 
to effectively monitor cyclical changes in the environment, 
such as El Nino events and global climate change.
    To address these marine data and information needs, the 
September 2004 final report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean 
Policy (Commission) emphasized the need to expand and integrate 
ocean and coastal observation systems around the nation. In 
Chapter 26, ``Achieving a Sustained, Integrated Ocean Observing 
System,'' the Commission offered 13 specific recommendations on 
developing, funding, implementing, and utilizing a nationwide 
ocean observation system and linking this system with other 
national and international environmental monitoring programs. 
Additionally, scores of other Commission recommendations 
related to ocean data and information needs also support the 
need for an integrated, national ocean observation system. The 
Commission's recommendations are in line with those of the 
National Ocean Research Leadership Council (NORLC), which 
consists of the leadership of NOAA, the Navy, the National 
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National 
Science Foundation (NSF). In its April 1999 report, the NORLIC 
called for the full implementation of an integrated and 
sustained ocean observing system by 2010.
    Ocean and coastal data are also needed to satisfy the 
marine conservation, research, and management activities 
established in statute. A number of mandates explicitly or 
implicitly require routine ocean observations. For example, 
title V of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act 
requires the Environmental Protection Agency and NOAA to 
administer a national coastal water quality monitoring program. 
Further, the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 created the 
National Estuarine Research Reserve System, which monitors the 
status and trends in coastal ecosystem health at these 
    Independent regional ocean observation systems, such as the 
Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System (GoMOOS), the Alaska Ocean 
Observing System, and dozens of other current and planned 
systems around the United States coastline have attempted to 
fill these information needs on a regional basis. The GoMOOS, 
for example, is a prototype system of integrated ocean 
observing devices (buoys, radar, satellites, etc.) that are 
linked to provide real-time ocean data collection via the 
internet so that ocean prediction models and systems can be 
developed, a process similar to that utilized in forecasting. 
Other regional systems are being developed to meet local or 
project-based research needs, collecting different types of 
data in different ways and using various approaches for 
organizing, managing, and communicating these data.
    These regional efforts have developed in an ad hoc, 
fragmented manner, limiting the uniformity, consistency, and 
compatibility of data among systems. NOAA and other users of 
ocean and coastal data are unable to link these systems, 
thereby losing a valuable opportunity to develop a 
comprehensive picture of coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes 
conditions around the nation. Regional systems are also limited 
by uneven and unpredictable funding, which further limits their 
ability to meet their own basic needs.
    To overcome these challenges, regional and national ocean 
observation partners have worked together through Ocean.US to 
promote a comprehensive, integrated, and nationwide ocean and 
coastal observation system. Ocean.US is an interagency ocean 
observation office (with 12 Federal agencies represented) 
created through a memorandum of understanding by the National 
Oceanographic Partnership Program under which Ocean.US would 
coordinate the development of an operational, integrated, and 
sustained ocean and coastal observing system, such as that 
which would be established by S. 361.
    The Ocean and Coastal Observation System Act of 2005 would 
further advance and better coordinate the ocean data collection 
systems around the country and formalize their long-term 
relationship with the Federal government. The goal of this bill 
is to build on the existing Federal observing backbone to 
establish an ocean observing program that would produce 
continuous and comprehensive ocean observations in the United 
States Exclusive Economic Zone, including the Great Lakes. The 
existing backbone includes NOAA's weather buoys, tide gauges, 
tsunami detection buoys, and real-time observing partnerships 
such as the Physical Oceanographic Real Time System. With 
continued funding and administration support, managers of the 
ocean and coastal observation system would (1) provide a 
continuous stream of near real-time data for oceanographic 
parameters of national priority; (2) develop standards and 
protocols for data transfer and archiving; and (3) improve 
linkages between regional observing systems to facilitate 
coverage around the continental United States.
    An integrated and institutionalized ocean and coastal 
observing system would provide NOAA and its State partners with 
critical nationwide environmental data (including currents, 
nutrient flows, coastal flooding or erosion, presence of 
pathogens and contaminants, larval transport patterns, and 
other physical, chemical, and biological information) that can 
be utilized to improve fisheries modeling and management, 
coastal planning, harmful algal blooms and hypoxia management 
and mitigation, prediction of climate change, and other marine 
ecosystem activities. All of these functions support and 
supplement other legislative mandates established in the 
Coastal Zone Management Act, the Harmful Algal Bloom and 
Hypoxia Research and Control Act, and other legislation related 
to oceans, fisheries, and atmospheric science.
    In addition, this national system would provide the Coast 
Guard with real-time information on sea-state conditions that 
they could use to determine when and how to conduct their many 
missions, and it would be especially applicable in determining 
how to carry out search-and-rescue activities. Observing 
systems would also provide the Navy with detailed observations 
to support core Navy missions, including development of 
improved sensor technologies and predictive and tactical models 
for littoral environments.
    Information generated by this system could also be utilized 
in providing advanced warning of hazardous ocean and coastal 
conditions to state managers and potentially affected 
communities. For example, when a tsunami or hurricane occurs, 
information from tsunami detection buoys could be combined with 
wave height indicators and tidal gauges in the observing system 
to track destructive wave patterns, thereby helping communities 
minimize loss of life and property. Ocean and coastal data 
collection instruments could also better detect the marine 
physical, chemical, and biological conditions that are 
precursors to harmful algal bloom outbreaks, allowing fishermen 
and coastal tourist destinations to anticipate possible 
economic impacts resulting from lost revenue. Several other 
types of information products generated by the ocean and 
coastal observing system could help coastal communities prepare 
for a range of potentially harmful ocean conditions and take 
steps to minimize their losses.
    The potential applications of this system extend far beyond 
natural hazard notification, as it would reach multiple sectors 
of the general public in the form of user-friendly data 
products that would be easily and freely accessible to anyone 
seeking the data. For example, fisheries scientists and 
managers could use the information to predict ocean conditions 
linked to productivity and incorporate this information into 
their management system. Fishermen, sailors, and others who 
traverse the ocean could better predict sea conditions to know 
when and where to go out safely, and shippers could transport 
goods more efficiently. Ocean scientists and regulators could 
better understand, predict, and rapidly respond to the 
distribution and impacts of marine pollution. Educators and 
students could learn more about how and why oceans function as 
they do.
    The economic impact of this ocean and coastal observing 
system is difficult to quantify, but studies to date indicate 
that it would generate significant cost savings over the life 
of the system. The Commission estimated that such a national, 
integrated system would cost $138 million to formally establish 
and $500 million to maintain annually, but these estimates are 
comparable to the $700 million provided annually to the 
National Weather Service for similar information and products 
for weather and atmospheric phenomena. The economic return is 
significant; for example, an economic impact study on GoMOOS 
estimated it saved the regional economy at least $6 for every 
$1 invested. Additionally, the Commission noted that the 
estimated value of El Nino forecasts reaches $1 billion 
    Once established, this ocean and coastal observation system 
would help improve weather and flood forecasting, promote 
understanding of global change processes, enhance safety and 
efficiency of marine operations, facilitate research, 
strengthen homeland security, reduce public health risks, 
sustain living marine resources, evaluate effectiveness of 
ocean and coastal policies, and provide information to raise 
public awareness of oceans.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    S. 361 was introduced in the Senate by Senator Snowe on 
February 10, 2005, with Senators Kerry, Stevens, Inouye, and 
Collins as original co-sponsors. Senators Lautenberg, Sarbanes, 
Lott, and Cantwell subsequently co-sponsored the bill. The bill 
was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and 
Transportation. On March 10, 2005, the bill was considered by 
the Committee in open Executive Session. The Committee, without 
objection, ordered S. 361 be reported as introduced.

                            ESTIMATED COSTS

    In accordance with paragraph 11(a) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate and section 403 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee provides the 
following cost estimate, prepared by the Congressional Budget 

S. 361--Ocean and Coastal Observation Systems Act of 2005

    Summary: S. 361 would direct the National Ocean Research 
Leadership Council to develop and operate an integrated coastal 
and ocean observation system, including ocean monitoring, data 
analysis, public education, and research. For this purpose, the 
bill would authorize the appropriation of whatever amounts are 
necessary for fiscal years 2006 through 2010. The council, 
which was established in 1996, includes the National Oceanic 
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Navy, the National 
Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space 
Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and other federal 
    The costs of carrying out the requirements of S. 361 are 
uncertain because the parameters of the observation system, 
including public education and research, have not been 
determined by the council and because it is difficult to 
predict how many of the necessary programs would be funded and 
implemented in the absence of this legislation. Based on 
available information and assuming appropriation of the 
necessary amounts, CBO estimates that implementing S. 361 would 
cost the federal government $80 million in 2006 and $1.8 
billion over the 2006-2010 period. (An additional $355 million 
would be spent in 2011). We estimate that enacting the bill 
would not affect direct spending or revenues.
    S. 361 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) 
and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal 
    Estimated cost to the Federal government: The estimated 
budgetary impact of S. 361 is shown in the following table. For 
this estimate, CBO assumes that the amounts necessary to carry 
out S. 361 will be appropriated for each fiscal year and that 
outlays will follow historical spending patterns for similar 
activities. This estimate is based on information provided by 
NOAA, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, and other federal 
agencies and nonprofit organizations. The costs of this 
legislation fall within budget functions 050 (national 
defense), 250 (general science, space, and technology), 300 
(natural resources and environment), and 400 (transportation).

                                                                  By fiscal year, in millions of dollars--
                                                              2006       2007       2008       2009       2010
                                  CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION

Estimated Authorization Level............................        175        325        425        575        675
Estimated Outlays........................................         80        240        390        500        610

    Basis of estimate: Based on projections and timetables 
developed by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, CBO estimates 
that developing the infrastructure for a fully integrated 
coastal and ocean observation system would require about $200 
million over the next two years and that such a system would 
cost about $600 million annually to operate by 2010. Finally, 
based on the cost of similar ocean science programs, we 
estimate that an additional $75 million annually would be 
needed for related research and public education, also 
beginning in 2006. CBO estimates that total spending to carry 
out these activities would be about $80 million in fiscal year 
2006 and about $1.8 billion over the 2006-2010 period. Most of 
these amounts would be spent by NOAA.
    CBO expects that much of the spending to develop and 
operate the coastal and ocean observing system could occur even 
in the absence of this legislation. For fiscal year 2005, 
Congress appropriated more than $70 million to NOAA for 
activities similar to those authorized by S. 361, in addition 
to amounts that the agency receives each year for previously 
established observing and assessment projects. Other agencies 
such as the Navy and the NSF also received appropriations in 
2005 for ongoing programs related to ocean observing.
    Intergovernmental and private-sector impact: S. 361 
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as 
defined in UMRA and would impose no costs on state, local, or 
tribal governments.
    Estimate prepared by: Federal costs: Deborah Reis; impact 
on state, local, and tribal governments: Marjorie Miller; 
impact on the private sector: Jean Talarico.
    Estimate approved by: Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.


  In accordance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee provides the 
following evaluation of the regulatory impact of the 
legislation, as reported:

                       NUMBER OF PERSONS COVERED

  The reported bill requires the development of a national, 
integrated ocean and coastal observation system that will 
collect, compile, and make available data on ocean conditions. 
It does not authorize any new regulations and therefore will 
not subject any individuals or businesses to new regulations.

                            ECONOMIC IMPACT

  Section 7 of the reported bill authorizes ``such sums as may 
be necessary'' for the development and implementation of the 
national ocean and coastal observation system. Considering the 
potential cost savings and economic return on a fully 
functional ocean and coastal observation system, the funding 
levels ultimately enacted are not expected to have an 
inflationary impact on the nation's economy.


  The reported bill will not have any adverse impact on the 
personal privacy of individuals.


  S. 361 would not impose any new paperwork requirements on 
private citizens, businesses, or other entities that do not 
choose to participate in a regional ocean and coastal 
observation association; representatives of entities choosing 
to participate in these associations may be subject to some 
additional paperwork requirements.

                      SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

Section 1. Short title

  This section provides the title of the bill, the ``Ocean and 
Coastal Observation System Act of 2005''.

Section 2. Findings and purposes

  This section provides 11 findings related to ocean and 
coastal observations and states, as the 4 purposes of the bill 
(1) developing and maintaining an integrated ocean and coastal 
observing system; (2) implementing related research, 
development, and education programs; (3) implementing data and 
information management systems to support collection and 
dissemination of collected data; and (4) establishing regional 
observation systems to address local needs for ocean and 
coastal information.

Section 3. Definitions

  This section defines the terms ``Council'' as the National 
Ocean Research Leadership Council (NORLC); ``Observation 
Systems''; the ``National Oceanographic Partnership Program'' 
(NOPP); and the ``Interagency Program Office'' as Ocean.US, 
described in section 4(d).

Section 4. Integrated ocean and coastal observing system

  (a) Establishment.--This subsection directs the President, 
acting through the Council, to establish and maintain an 
integrated system of ocean and coastal observation, analysis 
and modeling. This system is to provide long-term, continuous, 
quality controlled data and information for the timely 
monitoring and prediction of changes in ocean and coastal 
environments that impact socioeconomic and ecological systems. 
The purposes of the system include improving the health of the 
Nation's coasts, oceans, and Great Lakes, protecting lives and 
livelihoods from natural and manmade hazards, supporting 
national defense and homeland security, understanding the 
effects of human activities and natural variability on oceans 
and coasts, measuring, explaining, and predicting environmental 
change, providing for the sustainable protection and use of 
ocean and coastal resources, providing a scientific basis for 
ecosystem-based management should Congress mandate it, 
educating the public about the oceans and Great Lakes, tracking 
and understanding climate change, supporting commercial use of 
oceans and coasts, and continuously improving ocean and coastal 
observation systems.
  (b) System Elements.--This subsection specifies that the 
observation system includes the following 5 elements: (1) a 
national ocean and coastal observing program, including the 
Nation's contribution to the Global Earth Observing System of 
Systems; (2) a network of regional associations to manage 
regional observation programs; (3) a data management and 
communication system for timely integration and dissemination 
of data and information products; (4) a research and 
development program under the guidance of the Council; and (5) 
an outreach, education, and training program augmenting 
existing programs such as the National Sea Grant College 
Program and Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence.
  (c) Council Functions.--This subsection specifies that the 
Council shall perform oversight for design and implementation 
of the observing system; plan, budget, and set standards for 
the system in consultation with regional associations; 
coordinate with other Earth Observation activities; coordinate 
and administer research, development, and education programs in 
support of ocean and coastal observation; establish pilot 
projects to develop improved technology and methods for ocean 
observation; support institutional mechanisms for 
infrastructure capitalization; provide support for and 
representation on United States delegations to international 
meetings on ocean and coastal observation; and coordinate 
activities with other nations.
  (d) Interagency Program Office.--This subsection directs the 
Council to establish an Interagency Program Office, to be known 
as Ocean.US, responsible for observing program planning and 
coordination. The Interagency Program Office shall prepare 
annual and long-term design and implementation plans. These 
plans shall promote collaboration between Federal agencies and 
regional associations and identify a core set of variables to 
be measured by all systems. The office shall coordinate agency 
priorities and budgets, including budgets for regional 
associations; set and refine data and communication standards 
and protocols in consultation with Federal agencies and 
regional associations; develop a process for certification and 
review of regional associations; and establish an external 
technical committee to provide biennial review of the systems.
  (e) Lead Federal Agency.--This subsection names NOAA as the 
lead Federal agency for the program and specifies that NOAA 
shall coordinate system implementation, operation, and 
improvement; establish administrative procedures for allocation 
of funds; implement and maintain elements of the system; 
migrate scientific and technological advances to operational 
use in the system; integrate and extend existing programs and 
pilot projects into the system; and certify regional 
associations according to subsection (f).
  (f) Regional Associations of Ocean and Coastal Observation 
Systems.--This subsection describes 5 prerequisites for 
certification of regional associations and authorizes NOAA to 
carry out certification activities. In order to be eligible for 
certification a regional association is required to (1) 
demonstrate appropriate organizational structure to implement 
and manage an ocean and coastal observing system; (2) operate 
under a business plan that conforms to the standards set by the 
Council in subsection (d); (3) provide data and information 
products for multiple users in their region; (4) work with 
governmental entities to provide timely warnings, education, 
and outreach to the public; and (5) meet the certification 
standards approved by the Council in subsection (d).
  (g) Civil Liability.--For purposes of determining liability, 
any ocean and coastal observing system that is carrying out 
this Act and is a designated part of a certified regional 
association shall be considered to be part of NOAA.

Section 5. Research and development and education

  This section directs the Council to establish research, 
development, and education programs, including National 
Oceanographic Partnership Program projects, on basic research 
to advance knowledge of ocean and coastal systems and to 
improve operational products used in observation systems, 
focused research to aid understanding of the relationship 
between oceans and coasts and human activities, large scale 
computing resources and research to advance modeling of ocean 
and coastal processes, and public education and outreach 
programs on ocean and coastal environments that integrate 
ongoing activities such as the National Sea Grant College 
Program and the Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence.

Section 6. Interagency financing

  This section specifies that agencies represented on the 
Council are allowed to participate in interagency financing to 
carry out programs under this Act.

Section 7. Authorization of appropriations

  This section authorizes ``such sums as may be necessary'' for 
implementing the systems and programs authorized by this Act 
during fiscal years 2006 through 2010. This section further 
specifies that at least 50 percent of sums appropriated for 
implementation of the observation system be allocated to 
certified regional associations and that all appropriated funds 
be available until expended.

Section 8. Reporting requirement

  This section requires the President, acting through the 
Council, to report on activities, evaluation, and 
recommendations of programs established in sections 4 and 5 no 
later than March 31, 2010.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

  In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the Standing 
Rules of the Senate, the Committee states that the bill as 
reported would make no change to existing law.