NOAA's Office of Education & Sustainable Development

Take Action: Ask Congress to Support HR 3644
Take Action: Ask Local Organizations to Support HR 3644

Bay-Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Regional Program
and National Environmental Literacy Grant Program Act

Purpose of the Bill: HR 3644 authorizes and expands two existing National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration education grant programs: the national Environmental Literacy Grants (ELG) program and the regional Bay-Watershed Education and Training (B-WET). The bill authorizes a total of $235 million over five years, and expands BWET to incorporate U.S. territories and all states. It was introduced September 24, 2009 by Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA).

B-WET program: B-WET was designed to support existing watershed education programs in coastal regions through competitive grants; foster the growth of new programs; and encourage development of partnerships among such programs. The aim is to strengthen experiential and classroom learning opportunities in coastal, marine, and watershed education primarily for school age youth, while helping teachers develop an understanding of the linkages between economic, social, and environmental resources and their affect on human well-being.
It was first initiated in the Chesapeake Bay region in 2003 with funds from Congressional appropriations, and has since grown to include five additional regional programs: California, Hawaii, Pacific Northwest, Gulf of Mexico and New England. The B-WET/ELG bill adds five more regions: Great Lakes, Alaska, Southeast, Upper Mississippi/Colorado and Lower Mississippi (while expanding the Hawaii program to include the other U.S. Pacific Islands).

ELG program: ELG funds projects focused on creating an environmentally literate public that use a comprehensive understanding of the role of the oceans, coasts, and atmosphere in the global ecosystem to make the best social and economic decisions. These competitive grants support informal and formal education projects that reach diverse audiences, and emphasize partnerships that integrate NOAA science into education programs. Congress has historically funded ELG at about $6 million, and current House and Senate appropriation bills indicate that $12 million may be available for FY2010. This bill would increase the authorization level for ELG to $20 million, growing to $25 million over five years.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) oversees a number of education-related programs, ranging from the Sea Grant program to the Hollings Fellowships, and has been actively building these programs over the years. In 2004, NOAA received an additional $6.3 million in FY 2005 funding to spend on new "educational initiatives"; they subsequently decided to distribute $2.5 million of those funds to the field as competitive "Environmental Literacy Grants".

Full text of bill