The Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System, a network of ocean-monitoring buoys, saves lives and money while increasing our understanding of marine ecology, commercial fish species, and has been recognized as a model for similar systems around the world. Such systems have the endorsement of both the Pew Commission on the Oceans and President Bush's US. Commission on Ocean Policy. Best of all, it costs only a couple million dollars a year, about the same as a single Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
But, as you can read in my "Talk of Maine" piece in the May 2009 issue of Down East Magazine, the system is collapsing for lack of federal support. Five of eleven buoys have already been pulled from the water - possibly permanently, as Congress dithers on funding the national system and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration diverts limited resources to create new systems in other parts of the country.
Unfortunately the piece isn't available online (at this writing the April issue is still on the website), but New Englanders will find it at their local magazine stand. (For background, I reported on the ocean observing systems' troubles two years ago in the Christian Science Monitor.)