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Guest column: Fighting for NOAA is fighting for our communities

Research shows investments in watershed restoration drives significant economic activity

By Tiffany Turner

Published on January 25, 2018 10:24AM

High surf last week carried large debris east of the Long Beach Boardwalk on Sid Snyder Drive.

Matt Winters/Chinook Observer

High surf last week carried large debris east of the Long Beach Boardwalk on Sid Snyder Drive.

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Tiffany Turner

Tiffany Turner


I pride myself on the quality and service at our Long Beach, Washington, hotels, but there’s no denying the truth: visitors don’t come here for the hotels. They come for the beaches, the fishing, the Discovery Trail. They come for the incredible experiences waiting right outside the door.

These natural treasures are the economic bedrock of our tourism-dependent community, and you will hear similar stories at towns all up and down the coast. Our prosperity is built on carefully managed shorelines, and healthy ocean waters that support abundant marine life.

Long Beach, Astoria and other Pacific Northwest towns have long since recognized this is too big a job to tackle alone. We rely on teamwork — with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration programs — to steward our critical ocean resources.

Here’s just one example: the NOAA-funded coastal zone management program, which supports locally-led shoreline management planning. Such plans keep homes and buildings away from erosion-prone or sensitive areas, protecting people and property while maintaining the health of our world-class beaches.

Salmon habitat restoration? The tsunami warning system? Beach protections? They all rely heavily on NOAA funding — funding that the Trump administration and some in Congress are proposing to cut in the upcoming budget negotiations.

That spells trouble, not just for the coast, but for the Northwest’s overall economy. Research shows investments in watershed restoration drives significant economic activity. As a business owner, mother of small boys, and lifelong coastal resident, I’m concerned that losing NOAA funding would hurt our economy and put lives at risk.

As a kid growing up in Long Beach, my father and I would listen to the weather forecast to see when it was safe to leave port. Dad, like every other commercial fisherman in town, relies on NOAA’s system for monitoring ocean conditions. The weather on the coast is not just tough — it’s dangerous.

Nowadays we use iPhones to get the forecast, but the information still comes from NOAA’s tracking system — a system that comforts fishermen’s families with the knowledge their loved ones aren’t navigating into a dangerous storm. Without it, our fishermen will be operating blind.

But on the coast, you don’t even need to set foot on a boat to face weather dangers. With two kids in school and a hotel that opens straight onto the beach, I’m counting on NOAA’s tsunami warning system to keep my family and customers safe when disaster strikes.

The White House and House of Representatives have proposed cutting $900 million and $700 million, respectively, from NOAA’s operating budget. And while the Senate’s plan more-or-less maintains funding at current levels, at the moment there is no federal budget at all. Instead, Congress has passed a series of short-term funding extensions, known as continuing resolutions. The third expired last week, triggering a short government shutdown before Congress passed a fourth on Monday, kicking the decision into February.

Continuing resolutions keep the lights on, but they hamstring long-term agency planning. Astorians should be proud of U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, and U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, who have all stood up for our coastal communities. I hope Washington state and Oregon’s members of Congress continue the fight for the coastal zone management program, Sea Grant, the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and other programs we rely on. I urge them to support the Senate’s proposed NOAA funding levels.

The United States is a country with a vast amount of shoreline. At the end of the day, our needs aren’t all that different from the needs of communities in New Jersey or Florida: the safety of our citizens, the health of our fisheries and the strength of our economies. NOAA is an integral part of all three.

Tiffany Turner is the co-owner of Adrift Hotels Inc. She lives in Seaview, Washington.



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