WASHINGTON — A system of buoys that track weather conditions in the Gulf of Maine might stand a better chance of attracting more reliable federal funding now that it has been permanently authorized by the U.S. Senate.
The Senate voted 77-20 on Thursday to approve the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which includes the permanent authorization of the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System, also known as GoMOOS. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill as early as next week.
Since it was created about a decade ago, GoMOOS has been a pilot project of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The omnibus bill permanently would authorize the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observing System, or ICOOS, which includes GoMOOS.
According to a statement released Thursday by U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, permanent authorization of the weather buoy program is critical to securing long-term funding for it. The bill itself does not include any more funding for GoMOOS, but it improves the likelihood that such funding will be increased in the next few years, he indicated.
According to Ed Gilman, spokesman for Michaud, the short-term goal is to increase funding for all offshore weather buoys systems, including GoMOOS, from $20 million to $30 million. By 2014, the goal is to provide $50 million in federal funding to the nationwide ICOOS system, Gilman said.
Federal funds for GoMOOS fell from more than $1 million in 2008 to approximately $500,000 this year. The decreased funding has led to the reduction of the network from 11 buoys last summer to only six.
Fishermen, shipping companies, scientists, government officials and even surfers are among the people who have relied on the buoy system for information, GoMOOS officials have said.
More information about GoMOOS is available on the Internet at www.gomoos.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.