STATEMENT OF SENATOR JOHN H. CHAFEE
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
LEGISLATIVE HEARING ON S. 1222, THE ESTUARY HABITAT RESTORATION PARTNERSHIP
ACT; S. 1321, THE NATIONAL ESTUARY CONSERVATION ACT; and H.R. 2207, THE COASTAL POLLUTION REDUCTION ACT
JULY 9, 1998

Good morning. I would like to welcome everyone and to thank all of the witnesses for appearing before the Committee this morning.

The purpose of today's hearing is to learn more about three bills pending before the Committee that pertain to the quality of the nation's estuaries and other coastal waters. Since the enactment of the Clean Water Act in 1972, we have made great progress in improving the overall quality of rivers, lakes, streams, and coastal waters in the United States. Despite the marked success of the last 25 years, we still face many challenges.

Two of the bills before us today, S. 1222, the Estuary Habitat Restoration Partnership Act, and S. 1321, the National Estuary Conservation Act, are dedicated to protecting and restoring estuaries in our coastal communities. Estuaries are the bays, gulfs, inlets, and sounds where fresh water meets and mixes with salt water from the ocean. They are some of our most valuable natural resources. Regrettably, in recent years, millions of acres of estuary habitat have been destroyed or degraded by pollution, development, or overuse. The good news is that estuaries can be brought back to life.

S. 1222, which I introduced in September of last year, will help rebuild degraded estuary habitat by providing a real incentive for communities to carry out estuary restoration projects. The bill creates strong and lasting partnerships between the public and private sectors and among all levels of government to restore one million acres of estuary habitat by the year 2010. To ensure that restoration efforts build upon past successes, S. 1222 brings together the existing federal, state and local restoration plans, programs, and studies.

S. 1321, which was introduced by Senator Torricelli last year, would reauthorize the National Estuary Program under section 320 of the Clean Water Act. Since the establishment of the National Estuary Program in 1987, 28 estuaries of national significance have been designated to receive funds for the development of conservation and management plans. Senator Torricelli's bill would allow these plans to be set in motion.

In addition to the two estuary bills, the Committee will receive testimony on H.R. 2207, the Coastal Pollution Reduction Act, which the House passed late last year. H.R. 2207 would allow the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, better known as "PRASA," to apply to the Environmental Protection Agency under section 301(h) of the Clean Water Act for a waiver of its secondary treatment requirements for wastewater. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has been involved in a 15-year dispute with EPA over its failure to meet secondary treatment requirements under the Clean Water Act.

The condition of estuaries and other coastal waters is an important national priority. I look forward to hearing our witnesses' views on the bills before us and their suggestions for what we can do to improve the quality of the nation's estuaries and other coastal waters. Thank you.