TOPIC: National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration

Sea turtles come before sea-based energy sources

A proposed settlement between environmental groups and the federal government over protecting much of the waters off of California’s coast for endangered leatherback sea turtles could scupper plans to harness the Pacific as an energy source, writes John Upton of The Bay Citizen.

Essentially, the plan would designate over 70,000 square miles of ocean as critical habitat, including the entire coast of Washington, two thirds of Oregon’s and about two thirds of California’s. (more…)

Predatory sea lamprey like cuts in domestic discretionary spending

sea lamprey

Now that there is no federal government shutdown we can start to analyze all the cuts made in order to achieve a $38 billion reduction in federal spending for the rest of the year. One cut, reports the Associated Press’s John Flesher, is a reduction in money to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (which is run out of the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration and is not to be confused with the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative). About 90 percent of the commission’s $22 million annual budget goes to working with Canada to stop the spread of invasive sea lamprey in the Great Lakes. The eel-like lamprey are “parasitic invaders” and budget cuts surely means that more of the species will proliferate in the Great Lakes. Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin has promised to fight against Fishery Commission cuts in the FY12 budget.

California salmon situation finally spawning good news

Chinook salmon

California’s vanishing salmon are suddenly bouncing back. After four years of declining populations that have worried scientists, bankrupted fisherman and launched desperate conservation measures, a near record year is predicted for Chinook or King salmon, prompting regulators to prepare plans for opening the Pacific for the first real commercial and recreational salmon fishing season since 2007.

The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council released three conceptual options for the coming season yesterday, reports Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle. All three options allow for much more fishing than last year, predicated on estimates derived from the number of two-year-old salmon, known as ‘jacks,’ that returned to spawn a year ago. (more…)

Water shortages: Act before the river runs dry

America’s western states are fast running out of water and the trend is being exacerbated by global warming, according to two new scientific studies, reports Felicity Barringer of The New York Times.

Researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute determined that water usage in five arid western states — Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah — will exceed sustainable levels by 1.8 billion acre feet over the next century; the institute also calculates what it would cost to replace that water. Add in the presumed effects of global warming, and the problem is up to half a billion acre feet worse. (more…)

Getting some bank out of snowbanks

The blizzard that hit Chicago last week inconvenienced most everyone in the region and was a tragedy for many: The Chicago Tribune reports at least 12 blizzard-related deaths. However, it’s not clear if the storm calls for federal assistance beyond the Illinois National Guard Troops Gov. Pat Quinn called up last week. Diane S.W. Lee of Illinois Statehouse News reports why Illinois may yet receive federal assistance. (more…)

American Samoa: That’s just not my bag

The tiny, mid pacific islands known as American Samoa has succeeded in an effort that remains elusive in California: banning plastic shopping bags.

The law, signed just days ago, goes into effect in February.

The move taken by the American territory was applauded by the federal EPA, according to Guam’s Pacific Daily News. While plastic bag bans or fees have been enacted in a number of municipalities, American Samoa is the first state government or territorial administration to take such an action. (more…)

Federal agencies work to restore native oyster in California

Researchers at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve are working to restore the west coast’s native oyster species, the Olympia Oyster, to the slough, an estuary teeming with wildlife along California’s Central Coast between Monterey and Santa Cruz.

Harvested to near extinction following the Gold Rush, efforts are now underway to restore the bivalves to parts of their historic range, reports Genevieve Bookwalter of the Santa Cruz Sentinel. (more…)

Another ‘BP Squad’ should investigate dispersants

The Obama administration has deployed the ‘BP Squad’ of federal investigators to the Gulf to probe whether there was any wrongdoing on the part of government regulators or private companies related to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

As Peter Henning points out in The New York Times, the criminal probe focuses mostly on (more…)


Cornelia Dean of the New York Times examines worrying news from NOAA about the danger that nitrous oxide poses to the ozone layer.


Part of the promise of an Obama presidency is a government that will take on new responsibilities: ensuring every citizen gets health care, facilitating a renewable energy economy. Another part, though, is just undoing the dumbest things George W. Bush did.

Today, as the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin reports, Barack Obama overturned a Bush administration rule that had significantly weakened the endangered species act. For years, in order for a federal construction project to go forward, both the Interior Dept’s Fish and Wildlife Services and the Commerce Dept’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had to make sure it complied with the Endangered Species Act. The Interior and Commerce departments changed this rule in December 2008.

Why the Bush administration sought to take away a core government protection of endangered species is anyone’s guess. Maybe it would have made it easier to build a particular military base or the U.S.-Mexico border fence. Maybe Dick Cheney just really had it in for endangered species. Whatever the case, it’s one less thing bloggers of the executive branch have to worry about. -MB