It’s hard to believe that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is so broke that it might mothball the nine Chesapeake Bay “smart buoys” that mark the nation’s first all-water national park.
But apparently, that might happen while the “adults” in Congress continue their sandbox squabbling over the budget.
With the boating and fishing season about to begin, the Chesapeake Conservancy sent a letter this week to NOAA administration Jane Lubchenco, asking her to save the distinctive yellow interpretive markers that guide boaters and school children in classrooms on a guided tour of Capt. John Smith’s adventures on the bay more than 400 years ago.
The buoys on the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail have a toll-free number (877-BUOY-BAY) and are linked to a website to provide water and weather conditions and commentary on cultural and historical events from Smith’s time.
NOAA was planning to launch a 10th buoy this spring, but now the entire program might go silent. Three buoys already in drydock for repairs–the Patapsco, Susquehanna and upper Potomac markers–would remain on land and six others would be pulled because the $150,000 to run them isn’t in the stop-gap funding measure.
The Conservancy notes that the buoys provide real-time navigational information vital to vessels along with their added value as teaching tools.
The letter adds, “Failure to bridge the current funding gap will not only result in the loss of data and information needed by public and private organizations and individuals but would actually incur costs from removal and result in resources being wasted due to the fact that data analysis and instrument maintenance has already been paid for.”