Testimony of Senator Lauch Faircloth on S. 1222,
the Estuary Habitat Restoration Act
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Two years ago, the North Carolina Coastal Federation asked me to support what is now S. 1222, the Estuary Habitat Restoration Act. I understand that Melvin Shepard, the president of the Coastal Federation is here today. Melvin, I hope you'll let the folks back in Nor& Carolina know what I'm about to say.

Although I have spent a good part of my life in and around the coastal sounds and rivers of North Carolina, until I started looking at the merits of this bill I did not fully realize just how important these waters are to my State and the nation.

We've got 2.2 million acres of estuaries in North Carolina. Our commercial and recreational fishing industry is dependent upon these waters. More than 90 percent of North Carolina's commercially important species of fish and shellfish spend part of their lives in the state's estuaries.

I'm also proud to say that nearly 50 percent of the seafood caught on the east coast of the United States depends on North Carolina's estuaries. In short, our ability to have seafood in this nation depends upon main healthy and productive coastal waters.

This bill will enable communities to get to work restoring degraded estuaries across this country.

It is vital that we target needed resources to restore and preserve our Nation's estuaries. The goal of the bill is ambitious -- to restore one million acres of estuarine habitat by the year 2010. We want to restore 100,000 acres in North Carolina alone.

S. 1222 sets out new, innovative ways of making this happen. It will help our communities restore habitat critical to preserving our nation's estuaries.

The bill also is important because it sets out a new way of building genuine partnerships between our communities, our states and the Federal government.

It makes sure that we listen to our citizens; build from what we know; coordinate and streamline existing programs; and most important, target limited resources in a cost- effective manner.

The level of support the bill has received speaks well of the potential value of the legislation to so many American coastal communities, and says a great deal about the stature of Senator Chafee, as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and of his work on behalf of the environment.

I am committed to working with you, Mr. Chairman, committee members, and fellow cosponsors to move S. 1222 this year.

Mr. Chairman, I would respectfully suggest that we move this estuary bill as a part of the Water Resources Development Act reauthorization, to ensure that it gets done this year.

I believe this would make sense since the estuary bill makes the Army Corps of Engineers the lead agency in estuary restoration.

We need to make sure S. 1222 is a part of the reauthorization. If we don't, a good bill -- one that builds bipartisan bridges as it restores our estuaries -- will get devoured in the larger and much more charged debate about the Clean Water Act next year.

Lastly, I wish to welcome Dr. Joann Burkholder of N.C. State University, who will be testifying here today. Dr. Burkholder is well known to most of you as one of the nation's leading research scientists, and is one of the discoverers of the Pfiesteria microbe. She will be testifying to the serious consequences which can flow from degraded estuaries. Joann, it's good to have you here.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.