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"Joe Courtney has proved to be an effective congressman for the 2nd Congressional District that covers the eastern half of Connecticut." New London Day, 10/28/2016
"Courtney’s tireless work ethic, intellectual vigor and sound legislative judgment have enabled him to represent the vast 2nd District ably" Norwich Bulletin, 10/30/2016
"Courtney is a bright, energetic and hard-working member of Congress who has earned another term." Hartford Courant, 10/25/2012


By Martha Shanahan   Day staff writer

Connecticut Sea Grant, one of 33 university-based programs nationwide funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, is facing its second defunding threat in two years after President Donald Trump proposed eliminating Sea Grant in his 2019 budget proposal.

Trump’s budget, released Monday, would eliminate funding for what his administration called “lower-priority” NOAA grant programs, including $73 million for the 33 Sea Grant programs in coastal and Great Lakes states, Puerto Rico and Guam.

The Connecticut chapter, based at the University of Connecticut Avery Point campus, is funded primarily by more than $1.3 million in federal Sea Grant funding and $644,000 in state match funding through UConn.

The program’s employees conduct research on Connecticut’s coastal ecosystems, support local aquaculture companies, conduct training for shellfish testing and run educational programs like the annual Quahog Bowl marine science quiz competition.

Trump proposed eliminating Sea Grant in his 2018 budget last year as part of a proposed 18 percent reduction in funding to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Congress fully restored funding for the program after Connecticut’s Congressional delegation, including Sen. Chris Murphy, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, protested the cut.

Trump’s proposed elimination sparked outrage from the administrators of Sea Grant programs across the country last year, said Sylvain De Guise, the director of Connecticut Sea Grant.

“Several Congressional offices were flooded with calls from constituents … towns and researchers that all benefit from Sea Grant,” De Guise said.

In a Jan. 31 letter to Trump, Murphy and 22 other senators, mostly from coastal and Great Lakes states, urged the president to retain funding for Sea Grant.

“Sea Grant is vital to local businesses and an important part of preserving coastal communities for generations to come,” they wrote. “Sea Grant’s work supporting waterfront and maritime businesses speaks for itself. The federal investment in Sea Grant centers yields $611 million in economic benefit, an 825 percent return on federal investment. We encourage you to provide robust support for the program in your final Fiscal Year 2019 budget.”

On Wednesday — the same day he announced a $216,300 NOAA grant allocated to Connecticut Sea Grant — U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, blasted the proposed cut as the Trump Office of Management and Budget’s “meat cleaver” approach to budgeting.

He said the proposal contradicted the message sent by a bipartisan group of Congress members who supported the reinstatement of Sea Grant’s funding last year.

“The OMB just kind of regurgitated the same lame justification as last year, which is that this is somehow an efficiency initiative to focus NOAA on their core mission,” he said. “If you look at Sea Grant’s mission, it’s absolutely aligned with NOAA’s mission, which is good maritime stewardship (and) sustainable programs for the maritime economy.”

“It just shows an absolute total, willful disinterest in the success of these programs,” he said.

De Guise said he is “reasonably optimistic” that early outcry against the cut could rally similar Congressional support for reinstating Sea Grant’s federal funds as last year.

“Our stakeholders are vocal and diverse,” he said. “If you cut something that’s everywhere, it hurts everywhere.”

Courtney said he planned to help circulate letters in support of Sea Grant to the House Appropriations Committee and encouraged people to push members of Congress to reinstate the funding the same way they did last year.

“It sort of lit up the grass-roots network of Sea Grant programs,” he said. “They really flexed their muscles … I have no reason to believe that it’s not going to work again.”