Ironically, ocean issues didnít generate such partisan conflict until recently. As a founding member of the bipartisan House Oceans Caucus, I can say that working across the aisle on ocean issues used to be far more commonplace. For example, the idea of a permanent ocean endowment was proposed back in 2004 by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy ó a commission appointed entirely by President George W. Bush. When the commission first floated the idea of an ocean trust fund in a draft report and asked governors for comment, support was overwhelming and bipartisan. Of the 20 coastal governors who submitted comments on an ocean trust fund, 19 supported the idea ó six Democrats and 13 Republicans. Only one Democratic governor expressed any opposition.
Coastal communities and stakeholders need help to cope with their rapidly changing ocean environment, and the Senate WRDA bill offers hope. Recently, more than 200 ocean and coastal stakeholders wrote to the WRDA conferees asking them to keep the National Endowment for the Oceans in the final bill and to delete the Flores rider attacking the National Ocean Policy.
Congress should seize the opportunity in the WRDA conference to reclaim its capacity for public leadership by taking action to cope with the challenges that our changing ocean has created for our nationís coastal states, communities, businesses and families.
Tom Allen is the president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers and a board member of the Ocean Conservancy. He represented Maineís 1st District in Congress for six terms.