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WASHINGTON D.C.-Recognizing the critical public safety need for accurate weather forecasting in Alaska and across the country, U.S. Sen. Begich today praised the Senate Appropriations Committee for approving the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill allocating $920 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrationâ€™s (NOAA) Joint Polar Satellite System.
As chair of the Senate Oceans Subcommittee that oversees oceans, fisheries, Coast Guard and weather issues, Begich led the charge in the Senate to ensure the nearly billion dollar program was funded in 2012. At the same time, he encouraged the Senate to ensure that funding for the satellite programs doesn’t come at the expense of NOAA’s important work in the oceans.
“Without these satellites, weather forecast accuracy would go back to the 1980s,” Begich said. “In addition to the safety of Alaskans traveling by boat and airplane, we know from recent earthquakes and tsunamis we must continue to fund early detection and warnings of natural disasters.”
Begich said the satellites also relay emergency beacon signals to Coast Guard and Air Force rescuers. According to NOAA, last year 295 Americans, including 80 Alaskans, were saved by beacon signals relayed by these satellites.
In addition to saving lives, the satellites protect our economy—about one third of America’s GDP is in weather-sensitive industries that rely on the long-term forecasts they provide. These satellites, along with Air Force satellites, help create military weather forecasts which American overseas forces need to plan successful missions.
Begich has spearheaded the effort to ensure this program critical to Alaska is funded. His most recent letter calling for funding garnered bipartisan support— the 14 signers included the head of the powerful Commerce Committee and Armed Services committee.
Begich also expressed concern that the funding for satellites not come at the expense of oceans programs.
“We rely on oceanic research, especially fisheries stock assessments, to support Alaska’s robust seafood industry,” Begich said. “We need to be sure to fund the science that drives our world-class fisheries management system. If we cut ocean programs, we put jobs at risk.”
The bill now goes to the full Senate for approval.
Source: Office of Senator Begich