USC Sea Grant Braces for Possible Program Elimination

The program faces elimination under a budget proposal from the Trump administration that includes deep cuts to NOAA

USC Sea Grant, the coastal science research and policy liaison program, may be eliminated under a budget memo written by the Trump administration and obtained by the Washington Post on Friday. The USC branch is part of the National Sea Grant College Program, a 33-college network under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sea Grant serves as a connection between science and policy, allowing research to reach policymakers and vice versa. Half of the $73 million federal budget for Sea Grant goes toward marine and coastal research and the other half goes toward staffing and communications.

"Science is a resource for everyone, and Sea Grant addresses local priorities," said Holly Rindge, the communications manager for USC Sea Grant.

In Los Angeles, USC Sea Grant works with the California Coastal Commission and regional coastal city communities like Santa Monica and Malibu to inform policy, using coastal and marine research.

Linda Duguay, the director of USC Sea Grant, said that one of the goals of the program's eight-person staff is to address this question: "What impact does a city the size of L.A., right up against the ocean, have on that ocean? And how does that ocean impact the city of L.A.?"

A project funded by USC Sea Grant's 2016-2018 funding cycle, for example, looks at the spread and causes behind toxic algal blooms off the California coast, which can impact public health as well as the coastal ecosystem.

Susan Hansch, the chief deputy director of the California Coastal Commission, emphasized "the ability of Sea Grant to bring research that we might not even know about."

"Through their calls for proposals and peer review and the like," Hansch said, "they can bring those connections of the researchers to the government agencies and the policymakers."

If Sea Grant were to be eliminated, other government agencies like the Coastal Commission that rely on science would have to hire private consultants to get the research they need – but public agencies often don't have the extra funding for a service that Sea Grant provides for free, according to Hansch.

USC Sea Grant also connects with the community through their K-12 education outreach program to train educators in the most recent coastal issues in Los Angeles, and to connect students to the ocean.

"In a region such as Los Angeles, where many of the students don't live within easy transportation to the ocean," Rindge said, Sea Grant views it as a priority to ensure they can connect coastal science to the community as well.

Eliminating Sea Grant is part of a plan that would cut funding for NOAA by 17 percent – money that would help the Trump administration "prioritize rebuilding the military," according to a White House budget memo.

President Trump called for a $54 billion increase in military spending while speaking to governors at the White House, according to the New York Times.

"This budget follows through on my promise to keep Americans safe," Trump said.

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