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Cuts could end a program that researches NC coast

RALEIGH -A national coastal research program that has operated in North Carolina for close to five decades would be eliminated under budget cuts sought by the Trump administration, according to a report in The Washington Post.

The Sea Grant program in this state is run through N.C. State University, one of 33 such university programs around the country. The North Carolina program conducts marine, coastal and watershed scientific research, education and outreach for scientists, educators, local officials, government agencies and businesses, according to its website.

Elimination of Sea Grant, with a national budget of $73 million, would be part of a potential 17 percent cut to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

The proposed cuts are outlined in a memo from the federal Office of Management and Budget, the Post reported. The newspaper quoted an unnamed White House official saying it was too early to focus on specific numbers because the budget process is still in flux.

N.C. Sea Grant received about $1.7 million in federal money last year, $1 million in state matching funds and about $774,000 in funding from other sources. The state program reports $3.2 million in economic impact, citing effects of its work such as lower flood-insurance premiums.

“The critical role they play is helping connect research and science to applied management along our coast,” Todd Miller, executive director of the N.C. Coastal Federation, said Monday. “It would weaken the ability to move new knowledge into effective management. They’ve been a very solid partner for decades.”

North Carolina’s Sea Grant is headquartered at NCSU in Raleigh with offices in Manteo, Morehead City and Wilmington.

The national program is part of the National Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and distributes federal funds to states with oceanfronts and along the Great Lakes. States are required to contribute, as well. All of the Sea Grant personnel in North Carolina are state employees.

The national program has been in operation for 50 years. North Carolina became a full Sea Grant program 40 years ago, but national projects were funded here as early as the late 1960s.

In December, the national program as part of its evaluation process praised the North Carolina organization that is “well-managed, cost-effective and impactful.” The review singled out the program’s fellowship training for future researchers, and its efforts in helping coastal residents withstand storms. 

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