Language to amend the National Maritime Heritage Act was included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 (the Defense bill) that was favorably voted on today by the US House of Representatives (375 to 34). Members of the House and Senate reached agreement on the bill last week after a summer of tough negotiating. The Senate will consider it next week. Once passed, the president is expected to sign the bill.
The maritime heritage grant program will be restored. Funding for the program was diverted by an amendment to the National Maritime Heritage Act in 2010, initiated by the US Maritime Administration. Advocacy by the maritime heritage community and the support of members of Congress resulted in that agency’s commitment of $7M to the grant program over the past few years.
The new legislation mandates that 18.75% [a 6.25% increase over prior years] of all ship scrapping proceeds will be committed to the maritime heritage grant program (my goal was 25%, so we have some more work to do). The funds will be transferred to the Department of the Interior where the National Park Service will continue to administer the competitive grant program. The grants fund maritime heritage education and preservation projects.
Additional amendments to the Defense bill require greater transparency in the Maritime Administration’s ship scrapping operations, including timely reporting on the funds available, and the use of funds for the preservation and presentation to the public of the Maritime Administration’s maritime heritage property.
These changes are all beneficial to the maritime heritage grant program.
My thanks to all who have supported this effort.
Submitted by Tim Runyan, Chair, National Maritime Alliance, December 2, 2016
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