Congress approves $70 million for Arctic shipping

On October 23, the House passed HR 3619, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010. While the bill delineates the appropriations for the Coast Guard, the significance of the bill for Arctic affairs is Section 311, the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment Implementation. This section was originally a stand-alone bill, HR 2865, written by Representative Don Young (R-Alaska), until it was absorbed by the Coast Guard Act. Section 311 appropriates $70 million over the next five years to Arctic marine shipping, particularly in the areas of ice breaking, navigation, and oil spill prevention. The vote passed 385 to 11.

The purpose of Section 311 is made clear at the beginning:

The purpose of this section is to ensure safe, secure, and reliable maritime shipping in the Arctic including the availability of aids to navigation, vessel escorts, spill response capability, and maritime search and rescue in the Arctic. It also supports international cooperation in shipping, safety, and search and rescue in the Arctic.

The bill requires that the Coast Guard begin a study within the next 90 days of whether the U.S. will need to repair or replace its icebreakers. Specifically, the analysis must determine

the ability of the United States to maintain a presence in the Arctic regions through the year 2020 if recapitalization of the icebreaker fleet, either by constructing new icebreakers or rebuilding, renovating, or improving the existing fleet of icebreakers, is not fully funded.

The Arctic-specific part of this bill can be viewed here.

Representative Young, who has been Alaska’s sole representative in the House of Congress since 1973, remarked,

Climate change means new opportunities for Alaska’s arctic region and the Coast Guard will play a vital part in our economic future as they are tasked with overseeing these routes.

News links
“D.C. Area Congressional Votes,” Washington Post

“House passes Coast Guard bill, including Arctic funding,” Professional Mariner

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