NOAA Hydrographic Improvement Bill Enacted

A bill to reform the way the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) manages its hydrographic survey and nautical chart program passed Congress and was signed into law by President Bush. It was signed by the President on December 19, 2002 and became Public Law 107-372.

MAPPS Director Kurt Allen (Greenhorne & O’Mara, Inc., Greenbelt, MD) testified in favor of the bill before a House Resources Subcommittee in September, 2001 and advocated several provisions which became part of the final bill, H.R. 4883. Among the provisions in the bill MAPPS advocated are – (1) A requirement that not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of the Act, NOAA shall develop and implement a quality assurance program that is equally available to all applicants, under which the Administrator may certify hydrographic products that satisfy the standards promulgated by the Administrator; (2) Establishment of a Hydrographic Services Review Panel to oversee the NOAA charting program, to include private sector members with experience and expertise in “hydrographic surveying … and geospatial measurement”; and (3) A legislative cap on the expenditure of funds for operation of NOAA’s own survey vessels and specific funding for contracts for hydrographic surveys (subject to appropriations). Contracts are authorized at $40 million for fiscal year 2003, $42.5 million for FY04; $45 million FY05, $47.5 million for FY06, and $50 million FY07. To operate hydrographic survey vessels owned by the United States and operated by NOAA, authorizations are set at $14 million for fiscal year 2003, $18 million for FY04 and $21 million for fiscal years 2005 through 2007.