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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fishery, Aquaculture, and Marine Mammal Issues in the 112th Congress

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Fish and marine mammals are important resources in open ocean and nearshore coastal areas; many federal laws and regulations guide their management as well as the management of their habitat. Aquaculture or fish farming enterprises seek to supplement food traditionally provided by wild harvests.

Commercial and sport fishing are jointly managed by the federal government and individual states. States generally have jurisdiction within 3 miles of the coast. Beyond state jurisdiction and out to 200 miles in the federal exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the federal government (National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS) manages fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) through eight regional fishery management councils. Beyond 200 miles, the United States participates in international agreements relating to specific areas or species. The 112th Congress may oversee implementation of the MSFCMA as well as address individual habitat and management concerns for U.S. commercial and sport fisheries in an attempt to modify the balance between resource use and protection. Additional concerns might include providing additional flexibility in managing harvests to eliminate overfishing; determining the appropriate level of funding for fishery disaster assistance; determining whether to modify fishing vessel capacity reduction and limited access privilege (catch-share) programs; modifying programs to better control bycatch of nontarget species; amending various fishery laws to strengthen enforcement to stop illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; amending and reauthorizing the Oceans and Human Health Act; amending and reauthorizing the Coral Reef Conservation Act; enhancing efforts to monitor, restore, and protect marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico; implementing the Antigua Convention for eastern tropical Pacific tuna; authorizing a national strategy to address harmful algal blooms and hypoxia; and providing additional support to maintain the character of traditional fishing communities.

Aquaculture—the farming of fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals and plants in a controlled environment—is expanding rapidly abroad, yet with little growth in the United States. In the United States, important species cultured include catfish, salmon, shellfish, and trout. The 112th Congress may consider whether National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration policies and regulations can balance development and regulation of the aquaculture industry in the U.S. EEZ, and whether to prohibit regional fishery management councils from authorizing aquaculture in federal offshore waters through fishery management plans and their amendments under the MSFCMA.

Marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). With few exceptions, the MMPA prohibits harm or harassment (“take”) of marine mammals, unless permits are obtained. It also addresses specific situations of concern, such as dolphin mortality associated with the eastern tropical Pacific tuna fishery. The 112th Congress may consider bills to amend the MMPA, including the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program, as well as measures to address specific marine mammal habitat and management concerns, such as how to deal with the effects of increasing noise in the ocean and an expanded research program for the recovery of the southern sea otter.

The level of appropriations for fisheries, aquaculture/hatchery, and marine mammal programs administered by the NMFS and the Fish and Wildlife Service may be an issue during the 112th Congress amid pressures to reduce federal spending.

Date of Report: August 22, 2011
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R41613
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Earthquakes: Risk, Detection, Warning, and Research

Peter Folger
Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy

The United States faces the possibility of large economic losses from earthquake-damaged buildings and infrastructure. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has estimated that earthquakes cost the United States, on average, over $5 billion per year. California, Oregon, and Washington account for nearly $4.1 billion (77%) of the U.S. total estimated average annualized loss. California alone accounts for most of the estimated annualized earthquake losses for the nation.

A single large earthquake, however, can cause far more damage than the average annual estimate. The 1994 Northridge (CA) earthquake caused as much as $26 billion (in 2005 dollars) in damage and was one of the costliest natural disasters to strike the United States. One study of the damage caused by a hypothetical magnitude 7.8 earthquake along the San Andreas Fault in southern California projected as many as 1,800 fatalities and more than $200 billion in economic losses. An issue for the 112th Congress is whether existing federally supported programs aimed at reducing U.S. vulnerability to earthquakes are an adequate response to the earthquake hazard.

Under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), four federal agencies have responsibility for long-term earthquake risk reduction: the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). They variously assess U.S. earthquake hazards, deliver notifications of seismic events, develop measures to reduce earthquake hazards, and conduct research to help reduce overall U.S. vulnerability to earthquakes. Congressional oversight of the NEHRP program might revisit how well the four agencies coordinate their activities to address the earthquake hazard. Better coordination was a concern that led to changes to the program in legislation enacted in 2004 (P.L. 108-360).

P.L. 108-360 authorized appropriations for NEHRP through FY2009. Total funding enacted from reauthorization through FY2009 was $613.2 million, approximately 68% of the total amount of $902.4 million authorized by P.L. 108-360. Congress appropriated $131.2 million for NEHRP in FY2010, similar to FY2009 funding levels. Also, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA; P.L. 111-5) provided some additional funding for earthquake activities under NEHRP. What effect funding at the levels enacted through FY2010 under NEHRP has had on the U.S. capability to detect earthquakes and minimize losses after an earthquake occurs is difficult to assess. The effectiveness of the NEHRP program is a perennial issue for Congress: it is inherently difficult to capture precisely, in terms of dollars saved or fatalities prevented, the effectiveness of mitigation measures taken before an earthquake occurs. A major earthquake in a populated urban area within the United States would cause damage, and a question becomes how much damage would be prevented by mitigation strategies underpinned by the NEHRP program.

Legislation was introduced during the 111th Congress (H.R. 3820) that would have made changes to the program and would have authorized appropriations totaling $906 million over five years for NEHRP. Ninety percent of the funding would have been designated for the USGS and NSF, and the remainder for FEMA and NIST. The bill passed the House but not the Senate. Similar legislation will likely be introduced in the 112th Congress.

Date of Report: August 24, 2011
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: RL33861
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Army Corps Fiscal Challenges: Frequently Asked Questions

Nicole T. Carter
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Charles V. Stern
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for much of the federal water resources infrastructure in the United States. The Corps is faced with more demands for building and maintaining its projects than available federal funding allows. This situation is raising basic questions about how the Corps functions, including the efficacy, efficiency, and equity of Corps planning and implementation.

Corps fiscal challenges have multiple underlying causes. The Corps and its infrastructure is expected to help meet the nation’s increasing demands on water resources and the services they provide; however, what the agency can accomplish given the level of federal funding provided is declining. At the same time, Corps asset management costs are increasing as facilities age. Nonfederal projects sponsors that pay a portion of the cost for most Corps projects can become frustrated as Corps studies and projects are authorized, but remain unfunded or are slowed by lower levels of funding than anticipated. The Administration and appropriators have to choose what to fund out of an increasing pool of authorized activities. The agency now faces a construction backlog of more than $62 billion, while receiving roughly $2 billion a year in construction funding. As Corps fiscal challenges become more apparent, frequently asked questions about the Corps fall into four broad categories: 

          backlog of project delivery, 
          authorizations and missions, and 
          navigation expenditures and trust funds. 
At issue for Congress is deciding how to tackle Corps fiscal challenges during a tight fiscal climate and under earmark moratoriums. In the past, Congress generally has increased the agency’s budget above the Administration’s request and expanded the list of projects and types of projects funded. At present, fundamental questions about what the agency does and how it operates are being asked. The perspectives on how to proceed among Members of Congress, project sponsors, fiscal conservatives, environmental interests, and other stakeholders vary widely. The perspectives often diverge based on views of the appropriate federal role in water resources management and infrastructure and the priorities for the limited federal water resources funding. Some stakeholders see the Corps backlog as a justification to direct more funds to Corps activities. Other see a need to reduce the level and types of Corps activities authorized, while others want to make gains through efficiency improvements to reduce the expense and time needed to complete a Corps project. Some also are interested in pursuing private sector involvement in and alternative federal financing (e.g., infrastructure banks) for water resources infrastructure in order to reduce the demands on the agency. Some of these perspectives are apparent in proposed legislation in the 112th Congress, including H.R. 104, H.R. 235, H.R. 1861, H.R. 2354, S. 475, and S. 573.

Congressional action on managing Corps fiscal challenges is complicated by the wide range of stakeholders engaged and affected by the agency’s activities. Past efforts at fundamentally altering the trajectory of the agency in recent decades largely have not been enacted; instead, since 1986, Congress has proceeded with incremental changes that have overall broadened the missions and activities of the agency.

Date of Report: August 18, 2011
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: R41961
Price: $29.95

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Land and Water Conservation Fund: Overview, Funding History, and Issues

Carol Hardy Vincent
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act of 1965 was enacted to help preserve, develop, and assure access to outdoor recreation facilities to strengthen the health of U.S. citizens. The law created the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the U.S. Treasury as a funding source to implement its outdoor recreation goals.

The LWCF has been the principal source of monies for land acquisition for outdoor recreation by the four federal agencies—the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Forest Service. In the past, Congress typically has identified which areas are to be acquired with the funds it provides. The LWCF also funds a matching grant program to assist states in recreational planning, acquiring recreational lands and waters, and developing outdoor recreational facilities. A portion of the appropriation is divided equally among the states, with the remainder apportioned based on need, as determined by the Secretary of the Interior. The states award their grant money through a competitive selection process based on statewide recreation plans and establish their own priorities and criteria. Finally, beginning in FY1998, LWCF has been used to fund other federal programs with related purposes.

The LWCF is authorized at $900 million annually. While the fund accrues revenues and collections from multiple sources, nearly all of the revenues are derived from oil and gas leasing in the Outer Continental Shelf. Congress determines the level of appropriations each year, and yearly appropriations have fluctuated widely since the origin of the program. Of the total revenues that have accrued throughout the history of the program ($33.5 billion), less than half have been appropriated ($15.8 billion). FY2001 marked the highest funding ever, with appropriations exceeding the authorized level by reaching nearly $1 billion. For FY2011, the most recent fiscal year, the appropriation was $300.5 million.

The $15.8 billion appropriated throughout the history of the program has been unevenly allocated among federal land acquisition (62%), the state grant program (26%), and other programs (12%). Similarly, federal land acquisition funds have been allocated unevenly among the four federal agencies. More recent legislation (P.L. 109-432) provided that a portion of revenues from certain OCS leasing are provided without further appropriation to the state grant program. These funds are to supplement any funds appropriated by Congress.

There is a difference of opinion as to the appropriate level of funds for LWCF and how those funds should be used. Current congressional issues include deciding the amount to appropriate for land acquisition and identifying which lands should be acquired; deciding the level of funding for the state grant program and how funds should be allocated among the states; and determining which, if any, other programs to fund from the LWCF. The primary context for debating these issues is Interior appropriations legislation. Other issues of current debate include whether the LWCF should be permanently appropriated at the authorized level of $900 million, and whether revenues from additional activities should be directed to the LWCF.

Date of Report: August 9, 2011
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: RL33531
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Crosscut Budgets in Ecosystem Restoration Initiatives: Examples and Issues for Congress

Pervaze A. Sheikh
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Clinton T. Brass
Analyst in Government Organization and Management

In the last 30 years, the United States has devoted enormous effort and committed billions of dollars toward restoring large ecosystems such as the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes. These ecosystem restoration initiatives generally address multiple objectives that go beyond restoring the ecosystem, such as water conveyance and levee stability. Consequently, these initiatives involve many stakeholders conducting and implementing a variety of restoration activities and other projects. Coordinating and overseeing the implementation and funding of such projects and activities can be challenging, and sometimes controversial. To address the complexity of organizing, managing, and implementing ecosystem restoration initiatives, some agencies involved in restoration initiatives have implemented crosscut budgets.

At its most basic level, a crosscut budget is often used to present budget information from two or more agencies whose activities are targeted at a common policy goal or related policy goals. Crosscut budgets can assist in making data from multiple agencies more understandable, and could be used to inform congressional oversight committees, participating agencies, and stakeholders implementing an ecosystem initiative. A crosscut budget may also be used to track program accomplishments, measure progress towards achieving program goals, or compare activities conducted by various agencies aimed at the same goal.

When designing a crosscut budget, there are several potential elements that can be considered, including the scope of the crosscut, or which types of programs and activities should be included in the crosscut; levels of aggregation within the crosscut; stages of funding tracked by the crosscut (e.g., appropriations or outlays); time frame covered; timing of submission and updates; assigning responsibility for gathering the data for the crosscut; and tracking progress of restoration activities and projects.

The variability in the design and implementation of crosscut budgets for ecosystem restoration initiatives generates several design questions. For example, some believe that funding amounts should be portrayed in relation to progress toward achieving restoration goals. Other issues include determining what programs to include or exclude in a crosscut budget, assigning accountability, and coordinating projects in an ecosystem restoration initiative.

Crosscut budgets can help address coordination and organizational issues in restoration initiatives. Some contend that expanding their breadth to track progress or evaluate success in restoration initiatives may make them more effective. Others, however, suggest that if crosscuts become too unwieldy and complex, or are not designed to address the needs of specific audiences and stakeholders, they may not communicate information in an effective and timely manner.

Date of Report: August 3, 2011
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: RL34329
Price: $29.95

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