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Capital Report


October 2012 Issue

Investment Gap of $16 Billion Will Weaken US Ports and Inland Waterways, ASCE Finds
Aging infrastructure for marine ports, inland waterways and airports threatens more than 1 million U.S. jobs, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) said in a September report.

Between now and 2020, investment needs in the nation's marine ports and inland waterways sector total $30 billion, while planned expenditures are about $14 billion, leaving a total investment gap of nearly $16 billion. ASCE's 'Failure to Act' report concludes that transporting goods will become costlier, prices will rise and the U.S. will become less competitive in the global market if the gap is unfilled.

With the scheduled expansion of the Panama Canal by 2015, the average size of container ships is likely to increase significantly, which will affect operations at most major U.S. ports that handle containerized cargo and requiring both sectors to modernize. Needed investment in marine ports includes harbor and channel dredging, while inland waterways require new or rehabilitated lock and dam facilities.

The U.S. has 300 commercial ports, 12,000 miles of inland and intracoastal waterways and about 240 lock chambers, which carry more than 70 percent of U.S. imports by tonnage and about half of U.S. imports by value. The ASCE said $15.8 billion more in investment up to 2020 will enable the U.S. to protect $270 billion in exports, $697 billion in gross domestic product and 738,000 jobs annually.

Costs attributable to delays in the nation's inland waterways system amounted to $33 billion in 2010 and are expected to increase to nearly $49 billion by 2020.

Obama and Romney Answer Questions On US Ocean Policy
The 2012 U.S. presidential candidates in September answered a series of science questions from ScienceDebate.org. Among them was the role the federal government should play in protecting the environmental health and economic vitality of the oceans.

President Barack Obama focused on coastal restoration and his National Ocean Policy, while Republican candidate Mitt Romney addressed safeguarding U.S. fisheries' health.

Obama said that by establishing the National Ocean Policy, the federal government has prioritized a proactive approach to improve ocean conservation. His administration is also directing additional funding to Gulf Coast restoration to rehabilitate the fisheries and coastal ecosystems in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Other policy moves under Obama include the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Chesapeake Bay cleanup, more than $1.4 billion investment in Everglades' restoration, the creation or enhancement of more than 540 public coastal recreation areas, protection of more than 54,000 acres of coastlines, restoration of more than 5,200 acres of coastal habitat and greater investment in fisheries monitoring.

Romney said the maintenance of fisheries represents a significant regulatory challenge: 'The question, though, is what form of governance should be employed: where are international agreements required, where is government regulation most appropriate, and where can the fishing industry itself serve as the best steward?' He said he would seek input from fishermen to accommodate their needs.

Researchers Honored with Golden Goose Awards For Federally Funded Coralline Bone Graft Work
Drs. Eugene White, Rodney White, Della Roy and the late Jon Weber were among the recipients in September of the new Golden Goose Awards that highlight obscure scientific research that has led to important discoveries. They had developed bone grafts from coral found in tropical oceans.

The research interests that led to coralline bone grafts began in the 1960s, when Weber was studying the chemical composition of South Pacific coral. Weber asked Eugene White to examine their skeletons using scanning electron microscopy. White found a new range of 3D architecture in the skeletons, with uniform and interconnected pores. Without any particular application in mind, White made molds of the coral in ceramic, polymers and metals.

In 1971, Rodney White, Eugene White's nephew, compared the coral's structure to the porous ceramics and metals being developed for bone grafts. The coral structure was ideal for allowing blood vessels to grow into an implant, promoting new bone growth.

The coral could not be used as bone graft material because it was made of calcium carbonate, which broke down in the body before new bone could grow on it, but Roy developed a method to substitute for the calcium carbonate while retaining the coral's microstructure using hydroxyapatite, a mineral in bones and teeth. Now, coralline bone grafts compatible with the human body are widely used to treat bone injury and deformity.

US House Oversight Subcommittee Criticizes Alleged Mismanagement of Weather Service Funds
The U.S. House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held a hearing in September to examine what led to an unauthorized reprogramming of millions of dollars for NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS).

Also in September, the House passed a continuing resolution to maintain funding for key science agencies and departments through March 2013. NOAA would get additional funding for continued work on the Joint Polar Satellite System and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite system for monitoring weather and climate data, with the first of two launches scheduled for 2017.

A 2011 NOAA report and a 2012 joint NOAA and Department of Commerce report provide the basis for memos that mention a financial unit that 'operated outside the bounds of acceptable financial management' and that employees engaged in the transfer of potentially millions of NWS funds without Congressional knowledge.

Commerce Department Inspector General Todd J. Zinser testified that in April his office received a complaint that NOAA officials outside of NWS had knowledge of the improper transfer of funds. The office received another complaint from a senior NWS employee, who raised concerns about how NWS continues to handle its financial challenges, including the lack of sufficient oversight and appropriate measures to mitigate funding shortfalls.

NOAA and the Department of Commerce did not provide a witness for the hearing.


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