Ocean Springs, MS – U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (D-FL), along with Representatives Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), and Chris Smith (R-NJ), introduced the Regional Ocean Partnership Act (H.R. 5390). The bill would formally authorize Regional Ocean Partnerships (ROP) as partners with the federal government to address ocean and coastal concerns. It will provide ROPs with more consistent funding to help them perform their critical mission of supporting ocean and coastal health, sustainability, and resiliency.
The Gulf of Mexico Alliance (Alliance) is an ROP, operating for years as a regional organization convened by the five U.S. Gulf of Mexico state governors. The Alliance fosters collaboration between federal, state, local, and tribal governments, as well as other stakeholders. Their mission is to collaborate regionally to enhance the environmental and economic health of the Gulf of Mexico.
“As Floridians, we know it is our duty to preserve our way of life by keeping our oceans and coasts clean and thriving. The work of Regional Ocean Partnerships, such as the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, is critical in achieving that goal,” said Rep. Crist. “These partnerships need more consistent and predictable funding, and by formalizing this arrangement, we help ensure our oceans and coasts are better supported for generations to come.”
“When the coastal communities in my district face an issue in the Mississippi Sound, it is oftentimes not exclusive to Mississippi and impacts large portions of the Gulf Coast region,” said Rep. Palazzo. “Our legislation fosters collaboration between coastal states through information and data sharing related to the oceans. We are introducing this bill today to better understand our oceans while working together to protect our resources for years to come.”
In July, MS Senator Roger Wicker introduced S.2166; a companion bill called the Regional Ocean Partnership Act. It was voted out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and is awaiting consideration by the full chamber.
“The Gulf of Mexico Alliance is excited about what the Regional Ocean Partnership Act will mean for coordination and collaboration within the regions. Allowing for expanded actions that cross programmatic and geographic boundaries is imperative for meaningful regional accomplishments in coastal restoration and resilience,” said Laura Bowie, Executive Director of the Alliance.
Executive Order 13840, Ocean Policy to Advance Economic, Security, and Environmental Interests of the United States, recognizes the importance of ROPs in supporting interagency engagement and collaboration on cross-jurisdictional ocean and coastal matters. The four existing ROPs include the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (Alliance), Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC), Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO), and West Coast Ocean Alliance (WCOA). Working with the other regions, Bowie took a leadership role to bring the importance of regional ocean partnerships to Congress. In addition to providing more secure and predictable funding, authorization under this bill will give ROPs the ability to leverage funds from multiple federal agencies against state and private funding sources, thus boosting their ability to address coastal and ocean issues of regional concern.