Voices: Mayor Dingler visits D.C., NOAA for Ocean Conservancy

Crystal Dingler​

Ocean Shores Mayor

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a high priority for our coastal communities. The ocean is the economic heart of the coast and NOAA monitors and ministers to its beat, serving our communities and businesses. In 2018, Ocean Shores’ retail sales and services alone contributed over $120 million to our State’s economy. NOAA helps us have successful years.

That’s why, when Ocean Conservancy asked me to join their “fly-in” to support NOAA by speaking to legislators in Washington, DC, I immediately said yes. As decision-makers, we must anticipate the storms that will batter our shorelines or rock our economy, but we must also make sure we let our legislators know where tax dollars are best spent.

The NOAA-sponsored Washington Sea Grant Program’s coastal economist located at Grays Harbor College, Dr. Kevin Decker, shared data on the coastal economy at the Marine Resource Committee Summit held here in Ocean Shores last fall. He understands our coast and his insights are valuable as we developed our biennium budget and started to market our piece of the coast. Other Sea Grant scientists support our efforts in their specialties. From the viability of shellfish to ensure plentiful razor clam digs, to managing the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA works to protect the environment and creatures that make coastal Washington a treasure.

Ocean Conservancy invited four of us from Washington State to make the trip, including a senior manager from the Wild Salmon Center; a consultant with the Suquamish Tribe who also farms geoduck; and a businessman who operates eco-tourism boat tours out of Bellingham. All of us work with or depend on NOAA research and communications in our work and personal conservation support roles.

The continued leadership of our legislators to fund NOAA and supporting our issues is crucial. We spoke briefly to Sen. Patty Murray at her constituent coffee, and gave a detailed briefing to her staff. On the house side, we met with Rep. Derek Kilmer, a champion of ocean issues. Kilmer worked for nearly five years to pass the Maritime Washington National Heritage Act with the help of Sen. Maria Cantwell. One of our group asked Rep. Kilmer what we could do to help and he said that we were doing it – we’d “schlepped” all the way to DC.

We also spoke with the legislative assistants for Rep. Denny Heck who is on the Estuary Caucus, Rep. Rick Larsen on the Oceans Caucus, and Rep. Adam Smith on the Estuary Caucus, in meaningful and constructive meetings.

With other teams from New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Maine, we also met with Rep. Jose Serrano, D-New York, chair of the House subcommittee on Commerce, Justice & the Sciences responsible for funding NOAA. We had hallway meetings and meetings in cubby-hole offices, and braved the myriad of underground passages between house and senate offices.

Our larger group also met at length with the Acting Administrator of NOAA, Timothy Gallaudet, Rear Admiral (USN ret.), whose staff shared his vision of expanding the reach of NOAA weather data so that other scientists can use the information and contribute to the overall knowledge such data can drive.

Each of us also spoke when appropriate about our other issues — for Ocean Shores, I expressed our appreciation that for the first time FEMA is funding potentially life-saving tsunami shelters and our sincere hope that we are among those selected for funding this year.

I also shared our concerns that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding not be diverted to other uses, and more specifically asked for support of the North Jetty maintenance project begun just this year. But, NOAA was our primary focus.

As Ocean Shores navigates through winters of uncertain and volatile weather, we look to the NOAA’s weather service and buoys for forecasts of incoming storms, high surf conditions, dangerous beach or boating conditions, and beach erosion.

As earthquakes shake the ring of fire from Peru to Indonesia, we trust they will provide tsunami warnings.

And, as we look forward to another busy season on the Washington coast, we stand with our congressional legislators, knowing that they will work tirelessly to ensure that our needs are met and that a fully-funded NOAA continues to have our backs.

Editor’s note: In providing the preceding submission at the request of the North Coast News, Mayor Dingler noted:

“We brought out own words and thoughts, but Ocean Conservancy funded our travel and ensured that our time was packed with valuable meetings.”