The Fight for Funding

I know this seems like an annual struggle. That’s because it is, unfortunately, and it will be until the full finding Congress originally intended is restored to the Maritime Heritage Grant Program that was steamrolled by the Maritime Administration to MARAD’s own financial advantage.

Tim Runyan of the Maritime Alliance again is leading the charge on Capitol Hill, and he could use help. Please consider contacting your senators and your representatives in Congress to support the STORIS Act, which restores funding and requires more transparency in MARAD’s handling of the money. ALC will write and lobby, but input from local groups is important. The pressure already has forced MARAD to increase the share of the ship-scrapping funds that go to the maritime preservation and education programs that originally were supposed to get them.

Tim has drafted a prototype letter. It’s full of background and information, and you can use that in developing your own, and joining the fight. His is directed toward Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who sits on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and is the ranking member of the subcommittee considering the bill, Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security. You can adapt it to your own elected representatives or their staffs. Your letter emailed to Sen. Booker’s staff also would be helpful — email them to Jason_Lemieux@booker.senate.gov;   kara_vantralan@booker.senate.gov; or  devon_barnhart@commerce.senate.gov  and  cc to Tim:   Runyant@ecu.edu

Here’s the letter:

Dear Senator Booker,

On behalf of the board, staff, volunteers, and community that supports (name of museum), I write to you to seek your support for the “Ships to be Recycled in the States” (STORIS) Act, (S. 1511; H.R. 2876). I ask that you assure the inclusion of the STORIS Act in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Section 4 (c) (C) of the Act restores a competitive public grants program in support of America’s maritime heritage. Our non-profit organization could benefit from this competitive grant program. Rep. Donald Norcross (NJ) has requested that the STORIS Act be included in the 2017 NDAA.

The (your organization) is devoted to preserving and interpreting to the public America’s maritime heritage. The maritime heritage community is composed of more than 1,000 non-profit organizations in more than 40 states. This includes historic naval ships, maritime museums, tall ships for sail training, historic lighthouses, maritime historical societies, education, and preservation organizations. Thousands of veterans serve as staff or volunteers.

The STORIS Act is a proposed amendment to Public Law 103-451, the National Maritime Heritage Act of 1994. This act calls for a pool of unappropriated funds equal to 25% of the proceeds from the scrapping of ships in the National Defense Reserve Fleet (“mothball fleet”), to be distributed by the National Park Service to maritime non-profit institutions, and state and local governments through a competitive matching grants program. There is no impact on the budget.

The National Maritime Heritage Act reflected an historic and deep recognition by Congress of the importance of our country’s maritime history. On a practical level, the National Maritime Heritage Act also sought to provide assistance to those non-government organizations dedicated to preserving surviving reminders of that past, the ships, the artifacts and the stories that are so vital in telling our unique maritime story to new generations of Americans and so economically important to the cultural tourism sector on which so many communities depend.

An amendment was added to the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act that allowed the Maritime Administration to use all of the funds solely for the preservation of property it owns. This resulted in reduced funding to maritime heritage institutions in more than 40 states by 50%. The STORIS Act (S. 1511 and H.R. 2876), restores the original formula of 50% for MARAD, 25% to maritime academies, and a full 25% to the National Park Service-administered grants program for maritime preservation and educational projects. The STORIS Act also seeks more transparency in the ship-scrapping process.

I respectfully request that you include the STORIS Act in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

Name                                                                                                                                                        Executive Director

STORIS Act support

Lee Radzak at Split Rock just contributed an excellent letter to Congress as part of the ongoing effort to restore the national maritime grants program funding, and it’s a critically important time for the lighthouse community to do the same. I’ve just fired off another round of emails to my area’s senators and representatives, who have heard a lot about this from me in the past (one even signed on as a cosponsor of an earlier version), but at this juncture the more input we can provide the better.

Tim Runyan is leading this effort from our side, and Denise Krepp has done some absolutely fantastic work on holding the Maritime Administration accountable. Here’s a link to her latest: http://www.americanshipper.com/Main/ASD/Oped_The_real_facts_about_Maritime_Heritage_Grants_61078.aspx

Please get on board with this. We need to show support. Contact your senator about the STORIS Act (S. 1511 in the Senate) and your representatives in the House (where the bill is HR 2876). Tim has provided a letter template:

On Letterhead if possible
(Name)                                                date
(Insert address)  or Washington, DC

Dear (Senator or Rep.) (insert name),

My name is (insert) and I represent (insert). I am writing to you to seek your support for (S. 1511 or HR. 2876), the “Ships to be Recycled in the States” (STORIS) Act, especially Section 4 (c) (C) to assure a competitive public grants program in support of America’s maritime heritage. Please support inclusion of the Storis Act in the Coast Guard authorization bill; or as a floor amendment.

The (my organization) is devoted to (insert your mission). The maritime heritage community is composed of more than 1,000 non-profit organizations in more than 40 states. This includes historic naval ships, maritime museums, tall ships for sail training, lighthouses, maritime historical societies, education, and preservation organizations. Thousands of veterans serve as staff or volunteers.

The STORIS Act is a proposed amendment to Public Law 103-451, the National Maritime Heritage Act of 1994. This act calls for a pool of unappropriated funds equal to 25% of the proceeds from the scrapping of ships in the National Defense Reserve Fleet (“mothball fleet”), to be distributed by the National Park Service to maritime non-profit institutions, and state and local governments through a competitive matching grants program. There is no impact on the budget.

The National Maritime Heritage Act reflected an historic and deep recognition by Congress of the importance of our country’s maritime history. On a practical level, the National Maritime Heritage Act also sought to provide assistance to those non-government organizations dedicated to preserving surviving reminders of that past, the ships, the artifacts and the stories that are so vital in telling our unique maritime story to new generations of Americans and so economically important to the cultural tourism sector on which so many communities heavily depend.

An amendment was added to the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act that allowed the Maritime Administration to use all of the funds solely for the preservation of property it owns. This ultimately resulted in reduced funding to maritime heritage institutions across the country in more than 40 states by 50%.

The STORIS Act (S. 1511), restores the original formula of 50% for MARAD, 25% to maritime academies, and a full 25% to the National Park Service-administered grants program for maritime preservation and educational projects. The STORIS Act also seeks more transparency in the ship-scrapping process.

I respectfully request that you support the Storis Act.

Sincerely,

Please send a copy of your email or letter to:  runyant@ecu.edu

I’d do that too, but here at ALC headquarters in the Dire Straits Lighthouse budget cuts have reduced us to using carrier pigeons. It’s a long flight, and hopefully Tim won’t need my copies in 2016.

-mike vogel

Support Needed for Bill to Restore Maritime Heritage Funding

Submitted by Tim Runyan, Chair, National Maritime Alliance

Greetings:

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) introduced the Storis Act on June 4, with co-sponsor Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA). It is Senate Bill 1511 (S. 1511).  Storis (Ships to be Recycled in the States) Act was referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee (CST). The Act includes Section 4 (c) (C) that restores funding for the maritime heritage grants program.

Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA) is expected to introduce the Storis Act in the House very soon.

However, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee just introduced its version of the Coast Guard Authorization Act that we hoped would include the Storis Act (S. 1511)–it did not. We must alert senators, and ask them to add the Storis Act to the Coast Guard bill; or support the Storis Act as a stand alone bill. CST has scheduled an executive committee meeting for Thursday, 25 June. We must act NOW!

I have attached a draft letter for you. Please email/mail your letters to your senators, and appropriate staff members. Write both of your senators–most will not be on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee (CST). I have attached a list of members.

You can write on behalf of your organization to a member of the CST Committee—I suggest Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) the Ranking member of CST; Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) Ranking member of the subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Merchant Marine, and Ranking member of the subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) are also on both of those subcommittees. Also, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI); Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) On Oceans, Coast Guard subcommittee.                                                                             

If you know of maritime heritage organizations or initiatives in the state please mention them. Write your senators; and target CST Committee members.

I know writing takes some time. But we know that advocacy pays off–$7M.  $2.6M awarded in April, and the deadline for round two proposals ($1.7M), is August 3.

Please write before Thursday, later if you must.

Tim

Letter to Support Storis Act

Senate CST Committee 2015

A Fight Lost — For Now

Bad news for maritime funding this week, but it’s not a permanent defeat. The STORIS Act, which would have restored federal maritime preservation funding to the level Congress originally attended, did not survive as an amendment to the defense spending authorization act. The maritime community had pushed hard to have that funding restored (see earlier posts) but the Maritime Administration applied pressure of its own to allow it to keep the money it had carved out of the fund for itself. It didn’t help that STORIS Act sponsor Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska was defeated in a close reelection bid, and that his staff had left Washington for the campaign that wasn’t settled until well after election day. But Tim Runyan already is at work lining up support for next year’s effort to reverse this money grab, and we’ll be letting the lighthouse community know when it’s time to step up efforts with your local congressmen and congresswomen. It would help to talk to them about this at every opportunity between now and then, so that the issue stays as alive as the funding needs of the community. Meanwhile, the National Park Service still will be administering a program with half the money it really should have. For those of you who applied in 2014, by the way, the NPS review of applications now has been pushed back to mid/late January. That’s just for the review that will lead to NPS recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior; I’m not aware of any timetable for those recommendations or for the final decisions, yet, but there’s a lot of pent-up demand for a relatively small pot of money and it’s spread across the entire maritime community. These remain tough financial times. The National Maritime Historical Society notes that several historic and replica sailing ships have been sold or laid up recently — Amistad, for example, is in receivership and Harvey Gamage and others have been sold off, with another dozen or so schooners also up for auction or sale. America’s maritime heritage really does need funding, and that’s a message we have to keep getting across to this and future Congresses. -mike vogel

More Money for Lighthouses

There still is federal money available for lighthouse preservation, but there should be more. There’s an effort now under way in Congress to make that happen, and it could use your support.

First, what’s out there: Under a law passed in the 1990s, a portion of the proceeds from scrapping Navy and Coast Guard ships in the “mothball fleet” is supposed to go to maritime preservation and education. After a first round of $650,000 in grants to 39 projects in 1998, the program went dormant as scrap metal prices tanked and environmental concerns added costs to the scrapping. But that’s improved, and recently $7 million was made available to restart the process.

The program is administered by the National Park Service, which will be using its administrative percent to restart its Maritime Heritage Program, itself a good thing. And NPS has decided to stretch that $7 million pot four years, to allow groups to develop requests and build some momentum. Each year will see the distribution of $1.7 million, by law divided equally between education (grants up to $50,000) and preservation (grants of $50,000 to $200,000). The tight deadline for this year has passed, but NPS promises more lead time in getting next year’s round going.

The grants require a match, and are paid as reimbursements. Another catch — under new laws, everyone receiving federal money has to do so through the federal grants.gov website, and registration takes a little time. Getting started now would be a good idea. Check the NPS Maritime Heritage Program web page for details.

Next, what’s needed: In short, restoration of Congress’s original intent. It passed a law that provided 25% of the scrapping proceeds for this program and 25% for the nation’s maritime academies, but in 2010 the U.S. Maritime Administration, which oversees the National Defense Reserve Fleet, won an amendment giving it sole discretion over the money. MARAD decided to keep it all for the academies and its own ship preservation projects (surprise, surprise). A tug of war ensued, and in stages supporters got funding back to half of what it should be. Instead of 25%, it’s 12.5%  We lost millions.

The National Maritime Alliance is spearheading a drive to regain that lost ground. You can help. An amendment to the original act is in Congress, attached to the huge Defense Authorization Act that funds the military. The action right now is centered on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, which will report out the bill before everybody heads out to elections; the act probably will be passed quickly once the senators return.

Dr. Tim Runyan, a maritime studies professor at East Carolina University, is the Alliance’s point man on this. He’s asking groups and individuals to contact their home state senators and press for support on this. You can get information from Tim at runyant@ecu.edu

There is 16 years’ worth of pent-up demand for a small-by-federal-standards pot of money here, but this is funding the entire maritime community, not just lighthouses, needs. You can help with the legislative effort, and check into applying for your education prog or preservation project grants.