Federal Funding Slated For Shore

BERLIN — While Maryland Governor Larry Hogan was touring the Lower Shore late last week doling out state dollars for several local initiatives, U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulksi was making some splashes with federal funding announcements of her own.

Mikulski announced the federal spending bill for fiscal year 2017 includes $10 million of the Wallops Island Flight Facility along the Virginia shore just south of Ocean City and Assateague. NASA’s expanded presence at Wallops in recent years has been an economic juggernaut for the Lower Shore including Worcester in terms of high-paying meaningful tech jobs and direct and indirect spending.

For example, the Wallops Island Flight Facility supports over 1,500 high-tech jobs on the Eastern Shore. In addition, work related to the Antares rocket at Wallops brings an estimated $250 million in economic development to the Lower Shore in the form of new goods, services and contracts for small businesses.

In addition, another $7 million was invested to bring broadband to the Eastern Shore by linking Wallops with the Patuxent Naval Air Station on the opposite side of the Chesapeake.

“As the nation’s only NASA-owned launch site, the Wallops Island Flight Facility is a centerpiece of our space and science infrastructure,” Mikulski said last week. “In Maryland, science means jobs. At Wallops, we see a close partnership between federal and state agencies along with the private sector working together to create jobs today and tomorrow.”

Mikulski wasn’t done with good news for the Lower Shore with the announcement of the $10 million investment in Wallops. Earlier this week, she announced the federal fiscal year 2017 spending plan also fully funds Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) control towers at airports across the state including the Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport.

The legislation will provide funds to keep all federal air traffic control towers open including five in Maryland. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced plans to close 149 federal air traffic control towers across the nation due to the sequester law. In April 2013, Congress passed legislation giving the FAA flexibility to shift funding to prevent furloughs on air traffic controllers and keep air traffic control towers open, including the tower at the Salisbury airport.

“This bill is good news for federal air traffic control towers and the communities and jobs that rely on them,” said Mikulski this week. “In recent years, these contract towers and their communities have faced shutdown, furloughs and uncertainty. They’re in communities like the one serving Salisbury and Ocean City …”