NOAA Awards $5 Million for Regional Sharing of Ocean Data and Collaboration with Washington’s Tribes

Cantwell-championed funding secured through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help West Coast Ocean Alliance and tribal organizations coordinate ocean data and monitor changing conditions along the West Coast

WASHINGTON, D.C– Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced new funding for projects to strengthen collaboration and data sharing among Regional Ocean Partnerships and tribal groups in order to improve habitats and protect against rising sea levels.

The funding, which was secured through the Biden-Harris Infrastructure Law (BIL) and championed by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), includes $5.06 million for organizations in the State of Washington – the West Coast Ocean Alliance (WCOA), the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and three tribal communities.

“The members of the WCOA are thrilled to be able to grow their regional efforts thanks to new federal support for more effective ocean management and coordination on the West Coast. The group's tribal, state, and federal partners will now be able to implement projects related to their regional priorities,” said John Hansen, executive director of the WCOA. “Building around its primary goal of more effective engagement with sovereign tribal governments, the WCOA will also expand its efforts to launch a new tribal engagement training program as well as directly support ocean planning and management of tribal governments on the West Coast. The WCOA also expresses its gratitude to Sen. Cantwell and her staff for championing this important work in Congress and helping ensure these new partnerships to support healthier oceans in Washington State and the entire West Coast can thrive.”

Regional Ocean Partnerships are collaborative groups of state, local and tribal governments working together with federal agencies and local stakeholders to address ocean and coastal issues within any given region. The partnerships also help enhance data sharing among states and across various levels of government – supporting interstate coordination of shared priorities relating to the management, conservation, resilience and restoration of the ocean and coastal areas with the goal of balancing the nation’s needs for food, energy, economic productivity, recreation, beauty and enjoyment.

The awards announced by NOAA on Jan. 17 include:

  1. $3,926,120 in Regional Ocean Partnership Funding to support the West Coast Ocean Alliance. These funds will help the WCOA develop a five-year strategic plan and fund new projects like building a broader regional dialog around offshore wind planning, tracking and assessing the development of ocean aquaculture, and strengthening and expanding the effective use of ocean data through tools like a new ocean health dashboard. This award will enhance the alliance’s coast-wide collaboration and monitoring efforts in support of sustainable and compatible ocean uses with expanded community outreach and organizing. The WCOA encompasses the Washington, Oregon and California coasts.
  2. $400,000 to improve data management for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. These funds will enhance the ability of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, the commission’s four member Tribes (The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, and the Nez Perce Tribe) and the WCOA to share regional data. The award will help update their existing data management and data sharing infrastructure – enhancing user interfaces, incorporating more thorough metadata, improving data exchanged standards, and including more traditional ecological knowledge fields and tribal data sets.
  3. $400,000 to the Quileute Nation for real-time hypoxia monitoring moorings. This grant will be used to build a new hypoxia monitoring and prediction system attached to ocean-moored buoys, as well as refurbish and redesign two existing systems. These systems will measure and report near-bottom oxygen concentration and predict the movement of hypoxic conditions along the coast of the State of Washington. With the help of this grant, the Quileute Indian Tribe – in partnership with the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington – will provide critical information identified by the WCOA.
  4. $240,724 to the Makah Indian Tribe for regional ocean planning and management. This grant will enhance the Makah Indian Tribe’s mapping capabilities, enabling them to analyze the impacts of projects and programs that could affect their ocean and coast-related treaty rights and resources, such as wind farms proposals or aquaculture. These funds will also help the Makah Indian Tribe predict future needs such as responses to sea level rise.
  5. $100,000 for the Quinault Indian Nation to participate and engage with the WCOA. These funds will help the Quinault Indian Nation leadership and staff participate in WCOA meetings. With the increasing demand for West Coast ocean resources coupled with the ongoing impacts of sea level rise to the Quinault reservation, it is vital for Quinault Indian Nation leadership to fully engage as decisions are being made regarding ocean use in their territory. With this funding, the Quinault Indian Nation will host one WCOA-related meeting, and tribal leadership and staff will be able to attend the annual meeting as well as other ancillary forums.

Sen. Cantwell, who serves as chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and is a senior member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, worked to secure $56 million for Regional Ocean Partnerships to help coordinate interstate and intertribal management of coasts and oceans in the BIL in 2021. She also championed further investments in Regional Ocean Partnerships, which were incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 and signed into law last month.

“There is no other forum that brings together such a wide range of government decision-makers to discuss the issues facing our ocean along the U.S. West Coast, and new federal support will ensure our unique organization can expand its activities based on the priorities of its members and stakeholders alike,” Hansen said.