Joint Ocean Commission Initiative Releases Ocean Action Agenda

March 17, 2017

Earlier this month, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative released its Ocean Action Agenda, an interactive digital report detailing actions the Trump Administration and Congress can take to improve federal management of the United States’ oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes.

Over 40 percent of the U.S. population lives in coastal counties and generate almost half of the nation’s gross domestic product. In this group are millions of people who live in areas that are at risk for coastal flooding – putting critical infrastructure, countless homes, and jobs at significant risk.

The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, also referred to as the Joint Initiative, is comprised of bipartisan leaders from industry, academia, and civil society, as well as former senior government officials.

The report urges the White House and Congress to support the creation of a National Maritime Policy that would be coupled with the existing National Freight Policy. The Joint Initiative also proposes a new injection of federal funds to expand the capacity of U.S. ports to accommodate larger vessels, maintain and develop navigable U.S. waterways, and build port resilience to account for coastal erosion and sea level rise.

“As nations throughout the world continue to invest to support their trade networks, it is increasingly critical that America invest in its freight and supply chain infrastructure, particularly its seaports, navigations systems, and intermodal connections, to ensure the continuous safety, security, and growth of the American economy,” said Lillian Borrone, former Assistant Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The Joint Initiative cited a study by the Multihazard Mitigation Council that found every dollar invested in mitigating the effects of storm surge in vulnerable coastal communities would save U.S. taxpayers four dollars.

“While each regional experience is unique, many of the underlying challenges are the same. Extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and the loss of critical habitat are issues of concern across the country and underscore the urgent need for action by our nation’s leaders,” said Christine Todd Whitman, Co-Chair of the Joint Initiative and former Governor of New Jersey.

In addition to sea level rise, the report identifies rising pollution, ocean acidification and the increased frequency of toxic algal blooms as significant threats to the ocean economy.

The Joint Initiative recommends that any national infrastructure initiative – such as President Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure proposal – should include infrastructure investments to boost coastal resilience to erosion and the effects of climate change. The report suggests an infrastructure bank as one option for funding projects to improve or expand ports, bridges, and roads.

(Asst. Ed. note: In case you missed it, last year ETW reviewed the history of infrastructure bank proposals and analyzed the key issues Congress would have to address if it created national infrastructure bank.)

“The oceans and coasts sustain a range of economic activities, including traditional economic activities such as fishing and shipping, as well as a burgeoning blue technology sector,” said Norman Y. Mineta, Co-Chair of the Joint Initiative and former Secretary of Commerce and Transportation. “While opportunities to use America’s oceans are increasing, we also face new and serious challenges that threaten our national security, infrastructure, economy, and way of life.”

(Disclosure: Sec. Mineta is a member of the Eno Center’s Board of Directors, and Lillian Borrone is a former member and chair of the Board.)



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