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March 11, 2014

Wait goes on for NOAA grants

More than a month ago, the NOAA director for the Saltonstall-Kennedy grant program said the agency was in the home stretch of determining which applicants would share in the $5 million to $11 million expected to be dispersed to grant applicants.

In the interim, February has come and gone, one-third of March is in the books and NOAA appears no closer to announcing the successful recipients than it was in late January.

“The overwhelming number of applicants and the volume of reviews needed for a robust review process takes time, but the selection process is nearly complete,” read a NOAA prepared statement sent Monday by spokesman Scott Smullen in answer to queries from The Times.

On Jan. 29, Daniel Namur, NOAA’s Maryland-based program director for the Saltonstall-Kennedy grant program, said the agency’s reviewers were “wrapping up the merit review process” and the final list of successful candidates could be finalized “within the next week.”

That has not proven to be the case. The national field of 261 applicants for the grants — including 123 from the Northeast region and more than a half-dozen from Gloucester — are still waiting to hear if they made the cut.

The process first was delayed by the partial shutdown of the federal government last fall, which occurred right after the Sept. 29, 2013, deadline for filing applications. The initial timetable adjustment called for the successful grant applicants to be announced in late January or early February instead of the end of December 2013 or in early January.

The grant program, designed to fund private and public-private research and development projects that benefit the U.S. fishing industry, is funded with revenues generated from tariffs paid on foreign seafood imported into the United States.

NOAA has come under fire in recent years from fishermen, fishing advocates and grant applicants for funneling vast portions of those revenues toward funding some of the agency’s administrative costs instead of into the grant program.

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