Cuts could prove devastating to Coastal Sussex

March 13, 2017

Lost amid President Trump's Twitter tirades this weekend was news of budget cutbacks that could prove as damaging to the Cape Region as a November nor'easter.

On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration is seeking a 17 percent cut to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

According to the Post, the proposed cuts would eliminate funding for some "small programs," such as "coastal management, estuary reserves and 'coastal resilience.'"

These programs may be "small" in terms of the overall federal budget, but it's hard to imagine issues of greater importance to Coastal Sussex.
Our very way of life will be determined by how well we handle coastal management and resilience.

And that's just the beginning.

The 17 percent NOAA cutback would include elimination of the Sea Grant program, which helps fund research at the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean and Environment campuses in Newark and Lewes.

Here are a few UD Sea Grant research projects, with information culled from the program's website:

• Stephanie Dohner, a UD doctoral student, is working on improving post-storm data collection techniques that would allow scientists and communities to more accurately predict local flooding during extreme weather events.

• Dr. Dana Veron and Dr. Wei-Jun Cai are investigating how to explain and possibly predict water quality shifts in Delaware Bay.

Other research projects include everything from aquaculture to preparing seafood safely to learning how to prevent injuries caused by the pounding surf.

Sea Grant also supports educational outreach and the popular Coast Day festival, which attracts thousands of visitors.

Last fall local politicians gathered in Dewey Beach to celebrate a successful lobbying effort to persuade the Obama administration to ban oil drilling off the Atlantic Seaboard.

It included Democrats and Republicans, including House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-14, and Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-6, and Rep. Steve Smyk, R-20.

It was an example of both parties pulling together to protect Delaware's interests. As former Dewey Beach Mayor Diane Hanson said at the time, even a few dead dolphins on our shore could harm the tourism industry.

Trump famously holds science in contempt. He prefers conspiracy theories. He once tweeted that global warming was a hoax invented by the Chinese.

We can't afford to take such a foolish approach. Too much is at stake.

We need the best information, the best science we can get to address the immense challenges facing Coastal Sussex. Cuts to NOAA could affect our ability to protect our coastline, our fisheries, our economy - even the health and safety of our citizens. I'm confident Delaware's congressional delegation will fight the president's proposed cutbacks.

But it's likely to take a grassroots effort, like the one that united towns across Delmarva to call for an oil-drilling ban, to stave off these budget cuts. The president remains popular here, but on this issue we're going to have to decide if we stand with Trump or stand with Sussex.

Don Flood is a retired newspaper editor living in Lewes. He can be reached at

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