TESTIMONY OF AMERICAN OCEANS CAMPAIGN
S. 1222: THE ESTUARY HABITAT RESTORATION PARTNERSHIP ACT,
S. 1321: THE NATIONAL ESTUARY CONSERVATION ACT,
H.R. 2207: THE COASTAL POLLUTION REDUCTION ACT

By Ted Morton
Coastal Protection Program Counsel
American Oceans Campaign
July 9, 1998

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee: Good morning. My name is Ted Morton. I am the Coastal Protection Program Counsel for American Oceans Campaign. American Oceans Campaign (AOC) is a national, non-profit organization based in Santa Monica, California and is dedicated to protecting and enhancing our nation's oceans and coastal resources. I also serve as Chairman of the Aquatic Ecosystems Work Group of the Clean Water Network. The Clean Water Network is comprised of more than 1000 citizen, conservation, labor, religious and other groups nationwide working to improve the quality of streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and coastal waters.

Since 1991, American Oceans Campaign has focused a significant amount of attention to the health of estuaries. Working with numerous, dedicated advocates from estuaries across the nation, we have long-supported making more federal funds available to improve estuarine water quality and restore estuarine habitats. American Oceans Campaign produced and distributed several public service announcements about the importance of estuaries. We served on the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project's Management Committee. In April of 1996, American Oceans Campaign published Estuaries on the Edge, an examination of the 28 estuaries that are part of the National Estuary Program.

On behalf of my organization and its members, I wish to express my thanks to Senators Chafee and Baucus, and to the other members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, for inviting me to testify today on legislative proposals to improve estuary protection.

INTRODUCTION

Last year marked the 25th anniversary of the nation's premier water quality law -- the Clean Water Act. Across the nation, communities used the anniversary to assess the condition of their lakes, streams, rivers, and coastal waters. Many communities discovered that significant progress had been achieved. More lakes and rivers are considered safe for swimming and fishing today, than in 1970. In many estuaries, the acreage of seagrasses and other aquatic vegetation is increasing from levels just a decade ago. Much of the progress is attributed to concentrating on "point source" pollution controls, such as sewage treatment plant and industrial facility discharges. Also, the public is becoming more involved in hands-on, community-wide projects to protect their waters and citizens are letting their elected officials know that they expect clean, healthy waters for their families and communities. These efforts are helping to improve the quality of many water bodies.

But, the examination prompted by the 25th anniversary also revealed we still have much work to do before America meets one of the goals of the Clean Water Act -- to make all waters swimmable and fishable. In particular, our coastal waters are troubled. A recent national water quality report disclosed that about 38 percent of the nation's surveyed estuaries are not clean enough to meet basic uses such as fishing or swimming. Many beach waters and shellfish harvesting areas are closed due to pathogen and toxic contamination. In 1995, almost one-third of our nation's shellfish harvesting areas were closed or harvest-limited; polluted urban stormwater was identified as the leading source of pollution contributing to harvest restrictions. Other coastal waters are subject to an increasing number of fish consumption advisories. Finally, estuarine habitat is threatened by unwise development, sedimentation, and destructive fishing practices.

Since last summer, disturbing accounts of our nation's coastal water quality have been featured in the headlines. For example, the outbreak of a toxic microbe, Pfiesteria piscicida, in tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay caused fish kills and human health problems. Red tides along the Texas shore killed an estimated 14 million fish last September and October. Sea turtles with tumors have been found off the coasts of Florida. Sewage spills closed a number of Long Island Sound area beaches last summer. The "dead zone," an area approximately the size of New Jersey where dissolved oxygen levels are too low to sustain fish, continues to appear off the coast of Louisiana and Texas each year. And, El Nino-related storm events overwhelmed sanitation and storm sewer systems in California this winter, causing untreated sewage to flow to the Pacific Ocean and forcing health officials to close numerous beaches.

In order to improve the conditions of estuaries it is imperative to develop and follow a comprehensive national strategy that entails many critical components, including water quality improvements, habitat restoration, smarter land use decisions, public education efforts, and greater investments. I believe that a combination of Senator Chafee's Estuary Habitat Restoration Partnership Act (S. 1222) and Representatives Lowey, DeLauro, and Shays' Water Pollution Control and Estuary Restoration Act (H.R. 2374) provides a significant start to ensure that a comprehensive national strategy for estuary protection is put in place.

THE IMPORTANCE OF ESTUARIES

Estuaries are dynamic bodies of water along our nation's coasts which are formed by the mixing of freshwater from rivers and streams with saltwater from the ocean. Typically, these waters are semi-enclosed by surrounding mainland, fringing wetlands, peninsulas, or barrier islands. Many of the renowned water bodies of the United States are estuaries -- Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Narragansett Bay, San Francisco Bay, and Puget Sound, for example. In addition to bays and sounds, estuaries are commonly known as lagoons, sloughs, bayous, and inlets.

The combination of freshwater and saltwater creates a distinct environment where aquatic plants and wildlife thrive. An abundance of land and ocean nutrients, ample light which promotes the growth of aquatic vegetation, and a continuous mixing of the system by winds, tides, and river inflows create conditions which give life to some of the richest and most productive ecosystems in the world.

In addition, estuaries support a variety of coastal businesses and are valued as places to live and visit. In 1990, it was estimated that 45 percent of the nation's population live in estuarine areas -- and the predicted population trends suggest that this percentage will rise in the upcoming years.

The functions and values of estuaries are considerable. For example:

Estuaries provide valuable commercial benefits. Approximately 28 million jobs are generated by commercial fishing, tourism, water-dependent recreation, and other industries based near estuaries and other coastal waters. It is estimated that commercial and recreational fishing contributes $152 billion to the nation's economy and generates approximately two million jobs.

Estuaries provide important spawning and nursery habitat for commercial and recreational fish species. More than 75 percent of the U.S. commercial fish catch uses estuaries during at least one stage of life -- usually the critical early stages. In the Southeastern United States, 96 percent of the commercial fish catch and more than 50 percent of the recreational catch are comprised of fish and shellfish that are dependent on estuarine and coastal wetlands.

Estuarine wetlands improve water quality by filtering pollutants before they reach coastal waters.

Estuarine wetlands and barrier islands protect shorelines and inland areas from coastal storms and flooding. In their natural state, these areas are able to temporarily store large quantities of flood waters and help to minimize damaging impacts of storm events.

MAJOR THREATS TO PRODUCTIVE ESTUARIES

Estuaries are threatened by rapid population growth along the coasts, habitat loss, and pollution. Some of the major problems affecting our nation's estuaries include:

Nutrient pollution. Nitrogen can enter estuaries from a variety of sources, including sewage treatment plants, failing septic systems, combined sewer overflows, polluted runoff from agricultural lands, stormwater, and atmospheric deposition. Excessive loadings of nitrogen disrupt estuarine life by accelerating the growth of algae. When large blooms of algae develop, they block sunlight needed by the estuary's submerged aquatic plants. In addition, as algae decompose, they require such great amounts of oxygen, that other aquatic life are deprived of oxygen. Oxygen-deficient conditions (called hypoxia) can result in massive fish kills.

Loss of Habitat. Due to development pressures and increasing pollution, natural estuarine habitats are being destroyed. Coastal wetlands, mangroves, and submerged seagrasses provide important nursery, spawning, and sheltering areas for fish, shellfish, and other wildlife. Ninety-two percent of the original wetlands base of the San Francisco Bay area has been destroyed. In addition, between 1950 and 1982, seagrass coverage in Tampa Bay decreased from 40,627 acres to 21,647 acres -- a 47 percent reduction -- because of increased pollution, development and boating activities. The loss of fish habitat is a frequently-cited, contributing factor in the severe declines of fish populations along our nation's coasts.

Pathogens. Disease-causing microorganisms, called pathogens, contaminate productive shellfish beds and recreational beach waters in estuaries across the United States. Pathogens are found in animal and human waste and enter estuaries from overburdened sewage treatment plants, raw sewage overflows, agricultural runoff, and malfunctioning septic systems. Eating shellfish or ingesting water contaminated with pathogens can cause a variety of diseases in humans, including gastroenteritis, hepatitis, and others.

Toxics. Often, elevated levels of toxics can be detected in the sediments, the water column, and in the tissues of fish, shellfish, and other organisms that inhabit estuaries. Heavy metals, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and hydrocarbons are the most common toxic contaminants in estuaries. These toxic substances originate from a variety of sources, including agricultural runoff, polluted urban stormwater, automobile emissions, and industrial discharges.

NATIONAL ESTUARY PROGRAM AND CHESAPEAKE BAY PROGRAM AS MODELS FOR COMPREHENSIVE ESTUARY PROTECTION

Estuaries are highly valued and intensely used waters, but only recently were they recognized by Congress as a unique and severely depleted resource requiring special attention. In 1987, Congress added a specific provision to the Clean Water Act (section 117) to provide direction and funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program. The Program is recognized for its work on addressing nitrogen pollution and encouraging sound land-use planning.

During the 1987 Clean Water Act reauthorization, Congress also established the National Estuary Program (NEP). The primary purpose of the NEP is to resolve many of the complex issues that contribute to the deterioration of our nation's estuaries.

Governors of coastal states nominate particular estuaries for inclusion in the National Estuary Program. The EPA selects "nationally significant estuaries" to participate in planning activities. After designating a particular estuary, the EPA becomes responsible for convening management conferences to address all uses affecting the restoration and maintenance of the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of each estuary. Conference participants include representatives of the relevant interstate, or regional agencies, federal agencies, the Governor(s) and appropriate state agencies, local government agencies, affected industries, educational institutions, and citizens. The mission of these conferences is to develop a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) that will protect and restore the water quality and living resources of estuaries. The priority actions identified in the CCMP are to be consistent with other provisions of the Clean Water Act and other federal laws.

The NEP has been, and continues to be a model for outstanding watershed management plans; however, implementation of the plans is more problematic. Over the years, we have discovered as more and more plans are completed, they unfortunately languish on the shelf waiting for the dollars necessary for implementation.

Currently, 28 nationally significant estuaries participate in the National Estuary Program. These estuaries were added in five distinct rounds, or "tiers." Seventeen of the 28 estuaries have completed their plans and are proceeding to implement the identified priority actions. The table on the next page provides a quick summary of the status of the local programs.

Nationally Significant Estuary

Year Designated

CCMP Status

Puget Sound (WA)

1987

Approved 1991

Buzzards Bay (MA)

1987

Approved 1992

Narragansett Bay (RI)

1987

Approved 1993

San Francisco Estuary (CA)

1987

Approved 1993

Albemarle-Pamlico Sounds (NC)

1987

Approved 1994

Long Island Sound (CT, NY)

1987

Approved 1994

Galveston Bay (TX)

1988

Approved 1995

Santa Monica Bay (CA)

1988

Approved 1995

Delaware Inland Bays (DE)

1988

Approved 1995

Sarasota Bay (FL)

1988

Approved 1995

Delaware Estuary (DE, NJ, PA)

1988

Approved 1996

New York/New Jersey Harbor (NY, NJ)

1988

Approved 1996

Massachusetts Bay (MA)

1990

Approved 1996

Casco Bay (ME)

1990

Approved 1996

Indian River Lagoon (FL)

1990

Approved 1996

Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary (LA)

1990

Approved 1996

Tampa Bay (FL)

1990

Approved 1997

Peconic Estuary (NY)

1992

Expected 1998

Tillamook Bay (OR)

1992

Expected 1998

Corpus Christi Bay (TX)

1992

Expected 1998

San Juan Bay (PR)

1992

Expected 1999

Barnegat Bay (NJ)

1995

Expected 1998

Lower Columbia River (OR)

1995

Expected 1998

Morro Bay (CA)

1995

Expected 1999

Maryland Coastal Bays (MD)

1995

Expected 1999

Mobile Bay (AL)

1995

Expected 1999

New Hampshire Estuaries (NH)

1995

Expected 1999

Charlotte Harbor (FL)

1995

Expected 2000

One of the strengths of the National Estuary Program and the Chesapeake Bay Program is their reliance on a watershed approach to address and solve the problems of the estuary. By identifying, examining, and correcting environmental problems that may originate upstream, the estuary restoration plans and actions have a substantially better chance of success. National Estuary Programs are designed to consider a myriad of issues: stormwater pollution, nutrient enrichment, heavy metals, seagrass loss, wetlands destruction, sewage treatment, industrial discharges, agricultural runoff, fishery landing trends, wildlife populations, land-use practices, and others. Past approaches to restoration and protection have typically concentrated on a narrow examination of a particular type of pollution or a particular species of fish. Although many of these efforts are making progress, a more complete understanding of the cumulative effect of all the estuary's stresses should produce more extensive beneficial results.

Another strength of the programs is the range of participation they attract from interested parties. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, along with other conservation organizations and many local businesses are actively working to enhance and improve protections for the Bay. The work of NEP Management Conferences provide great opportunities for collaboration and building consensus among the varied interests of the community. Joint decision-making during the studying and planning phase, although sometimes difficult to achieve, can lead to far fewer hurdles during subsequent implementation.

ESTUARY LEGISLATION OF THE 105TH CONGRESS

American Oceans Campaign is very pleased with the growing attention that the 105th Congress is paying to the plight of estuaries. At least four bills have been introduced that call for improvements for estuary protection. In addition, several members of Congress have sought increased appropriations for the National Estuary Program in order to fund implementation actions.

It is my opinion, that the enactment of the Estuary Habitat Restoration Partnership Act (S. 1222), introduced by Senators Chafee and Breaux, and the Water Pollution Control and Estuary Restoration Act (H.R. 2374), introduced by Representatives Lowey, DeLauro, and Shays, would significantly advance a successful, comprehensive approach to estuary protection. The combination of these two bills would foster beneficial estuarine habitat restoration activities; augment efforts to minimize water quality impairment from both polluted runoff and point sources; encourage broad-scale, meaningful public participation in estuary enhancement actions; and authorize substantially more federal dollars for restoring estuaries and vital estuarine habitat.

The Estuary Habitat Restoration Partnership Act (S. 1222). On September 25, 1997, Senator Chafee, along with several members of this Committee, introduced S. 1222. The objectives of the bill include improving coordination among various federal and non-federal estuary habitat restoration programs and increasing the level of federal funding dedicated to these important restoration efforts. The bill is supported by leading estuary protection organizations across the nation, American Oceans Campaign, and by several other organizations that are part of the Clean Water Network. American Oceans Campaign considers the approach detailed in S. 1222 to be an essential component of a national strategy to improve the health of estuaries.

In particular, the bill will improve efforts to restore estuarine habitat in numerous ways:

It establishes an ambitious, critical goal of restoring one million acres of estuarine habitat by 2010. Numerous commercial and recreational fish and shellfish species use estuarine habitats for nurseries and shelter. Such an increase in estuarine habitat should significantly aid efforts to restore estuarine and marine fisheries to sustainable levels.

It establishes a federal inter-agency council to better organize the various federal programs involved in estuarine habitat restoration. The Collaborative Council is to be comprised of the heads of five leading federal agencies involved in estuary protection and land-use decisions. The activities of the Collaborative Council will increase awareness about estuarine health among key federal officials and greatly assist coordination and priority-setting. One potential outcome of increased coordination will be the compilation of completed and ongoing restoration plans in the national estuary habitat restoration strategy. A database that gives a brief account of restoration projects; the types of restoration methods used; the various governmental roles included in the project; and the effectiveness of the restoration will prove to be an invaluable resource for coastal communities that are determined to initiate their own restoration campaigns but unsure of how to start and what to include in a plan.

It promotes a through national approach for restoring estuary habitat. The bill calls for the Council to develop a comprehensive strategy that addresses fish and shellfish, wildlife, water quality, water quantity, and recreational opportunities. Such a strategy should aid in directing scientific and financial attention to the most pressing estuarine habitat concerns, in balancing national attention between small scale and larger habitat restoration projects, and in evening geographical distribution of estuary restoration projects.

The bill encourages community-based involvement by seeking the active participation of concerned individuals, non-profit organizations, and businesses.

The bill authorizes appropriations to carry out estuary habitat restoration projects. The increased investments will allow states to leverage their own contributions to restoration projects and should accelerate and enhance estuary restoration activities.

The Water Pollution Control and Estuary Restoration Act (H.R. 2374). On August 1, 1997, Representatives Lowey, DeLauro, and Shays introduced H.R. 2374. The bill corrects the most glaring weakness of the National Estuary Program -- the lack of consistent, adequate federal funds for implementing approved comprehensive conservation management plans. The bill enables States and local communities to make greater progress in cleaning up estuaries, plus rewards the efforts put forward by the community to develop an action plan for their estuary.

Working through the National Estuary Program (NEP) of the federal Clean Water Act, community leaders have collaboratively crafted comprehensive estuary management plans (CCMPs) to restore their estuaries. As previously mentioned, seventeen of the twenty-eight estuaries in the NEP have completed their "blueprints" and are trying to implement the identified priority actions.

The NEP provides federal funding to assist states and local communities in developing watershed plans; however, no federal funding is specifically allocated to help communities perform the priority actions of the finished plans. To be part of the National Estuary Program, an estuary is considered to be "nationally significant." It should therefore be in the national interest to ensure that plans to restore these waters are implemented and given a proper opportunity for success.

Some coastal states have been successful in securing earmarks through EPA appropriations bills to help support implementation activities. Others have used the existing Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) to fund priority actions of the CCMP; however, this has not proven to be a consistent source of federal funding for estuary priority actions. To its credit, U.S. EPA has encouraged greater use of the SRF for implementing watershed protection activities through workshops, publications, and missives. Unfortunately, coastal communities continue to struggle in a quest for federal funds to augment local and state funds for completing priority actions listed in their local CCMP. As a result, the "blueprints" for estuary recovery are not fully being put into action.

Earlier this year, the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project released a progress report on its restoration plan, which was completed and approved in 1995. Of the 74 priority actions listed in the plan, only eleven have been fully implemented. Little or no progress has been achieved on sixteen actions. According to the report, a lack of funding is the primary reason that the clean-up plan has foundered.

H.R. 2374 will strengthen protections for estuaries. The bill:

requires implementation of approved estuary management plans. Local estuary management plans have been generally successful at identifying water quality problems affecting an estuary. It is essential that the solutions to identified problems are actually carried out.

assures federal funding for implementation. The bill extends the State water pollution control revolving loan fund (SRF) through fiscal year 2004. The SRF receives authorized appropriations of $2.5 billion in FY 1998, gradually increasing to $4 billion in FY 2004. The bill requires that states with approved estuary plans set aside a percentage of the SRF increases to be used to implement the priority actions of approved estuary plans. H.R. 2374 creates a State matching requirement for receipt of the federal funds.

increases citizen involvement by requiring that representatives of conservation organizations belong to the program's management committee during development of the CCMP. Actively involving citizens in the key decision-making arm of the local program will help build support for restoration actions and expenditures that are needed later.

allows federal grants to fund select interim actions as local management conferences craft their plans.

calls for a public assembly to be held and the management conference to be reconvened within four years after implementation has begun to gauge the success and status of the plan's implementation.

extends the authorization of the National Estuary Program through fiscal year 2004.

Because it increases authorization levels for the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, the bill would benefit coastal and inland states. The need for increased funds for water quality infrastructure is particularly great. In 1996, EPA released a national needs survey for water quality infrastructure. Based on reports submitted by the states, the report concluded that the United States will need to spend more than $139.5 billion over the next 20 years to meet capital costs eligible for funding under the SRF. For fiscal year 1999, the Administration requested $1.075 billion for the Clean Water SRF. With the support of American Oceans Campaign, other conservation organizations, water infrastructure associations, and other interested parties, the Senate Appropriations Committee has provided $1.35 billion for the SRF and the House Appropriations Committee has provided $1.25 billion. American Oceans Campaign commends Senators Bond and Mikulski and Representatives Jerry Lewis and Stokes for their strong leadership in increasing funding levels for clean water programs.

If the United States is to narrow the gap between our infrastructure investments and our infrastructure needs, stronger financial commitments from the federal government must be made. The Lowey-DeLauro-Shays bill, by significantly increasing federal contributions to the revolving fund, signals stronger leadership in meeting the future challenges of clean waters.

H.R. 2374 has been the subject of a hearing conducted by the Long Island Sound Caucus, but has not yet received a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The bill enjoys bi-partisan support and currently has 20 co-sponsors. Last fall, 81 conservation, environmental, fishing, and public interest organizations, representing 23 states and the District of Columbia, joined together in a letter in support of the bill. (Attachment 1) In addition, a coalition of labor and environmental interests, called the Clean Water/Clean Jobs Coalition supports the House bill.

A Senate companion bill to H.R. 2374 has not been introduced. In previous Congresses, Senators Lieberman, Moynihan, D'Amato, and Dodd introduced similar bills to require implementation of CCMPs and assure consistent federal funding through the State Revolving Loan Fund. During consideration of the Clean Water Act reauthorization in the 103rd Congress, much of the Lieberman bill, including requiring implementation of approved plans, and authorizing funds from the State Revolving Loan Fund program, the nonpoint pollution control program, and the National Estuary Program to be used for implementation, was included in the bill (S. 2093) that passed out of this committee.

In an effort to craft a comprehensive national strategy for protecting estuaries and vital estuarine habitat, the Lowey-DeLauro-Shays bill and the Chafee bill complement each other well. The bills support community involvement. The bills reward locally-driven processes to determine what vital areas of estuarine habitat to restore and what important actions for water quality improvement to undertake. In addition, they increase the federal financial commitment to improving water quality and restoring habitat.

The National Estuary Conservation Act (S. 1321). Senator Torricelli introduced S. 1321 on October 28, 1997. The bill permits grants that are authorized under the National Estuary Program to be used to develop and implement comprehensive conservation management plans. The bill also increases the authorized levels for the NEP to $50 million a year for fiscal years 1999 through 2004.

If enacted, Senator Torricelli's bill would set a meaningful advancement for the National Estuary Program. The bill would open the door to using NEP grants for implementation of approved CCMPs.

American Oceans Campaign believes that the Torricelli approach, although a stride in the right direction, can only hope to exact modest improvements in implementing approved priority actions in estuaries. First, an annual federal allocation of $50 million divided among 28 programs in various stages of their planning and implementation will not fully solve the current problem of inadequate federal funds available to implement CCMP actions. For all of the programs, the estimated cost their water quality improvement actions substantially exceeds $50 million. A much more significant federal investment is needed to ensure these plans have a chance for success.

Second, a reliance on NEP grants rather than the state revolving loan fund (as called for by H.R. 2374) to fund implementation activities could lead to a less reliable source of federal funding. Many of the priority actions identified in the approved CCMPs will take several years to complete. For example, several plans address the need to upgrade or extend sewer service for wastewater treatment and to expand the use of reclaimed water. Having a reliable source of federal funding to assist states and localities leverage their costs in making these infrastructure improvements should minimize delays and cost overruns, and thus, accelerate the clean up of these estuaries.

Finally, the bill could unintentionally create conflicts between newer programs still involved in developing their CCMPs and older programs needing funds for implementation. Although it is important to support implementation activities, we do not want to squeeze dollars from programs still developing their plans. It is likely that the $50 million will be a future target of earmarks in appropriations bills. The bill needs to address how the distribution between planning and implementing will be equitably carried out.

At the same time, I am concerned that the increased level of authorization might entice EPA to significantly expand the NEP, and not adequately address the great need to support implementation. The pattern of the NEP is to accept additional nominations of estuaries every few years. Between 1987 and 1995, the NEP grew from six estuaries to 28. Certainly there are significant benefits to expanding the number of nationally significant estuaries: an expanded knowledge of estuary conditions in more parts of the nation; stronger public awareness about the need to protect the estuary; increased citizen involvement in planning the restoration of an estuary's vitality; and in the end, an identified, comprehensive list of key actions needed to be taken. However, additional local programs require greater expenditures for administrative, technical, and scientific support.

In summary, local programs need significant and reliable sources of federal funds to leverage the dollars already being invested by states and localities for implementation of comprehensive estuary management plans. Although S. 1321 does allow NEP grants to be used for implementation activities and increases the authorization level for the program, I believe that to significantly advance the efforts to restore our nation's significant estuaries, a more sizable, comprehensive and dependable federal funding source is required.

The Coastal Pollution Reduction Act (Mayaguez, Puerto Rico Deep Ocean Outfall Act) (H.R. 2207). Representative Romero-Barcelo introduced H.R. 2207 on July 22, 1997. The bill passed the House of Representatives on November 13, 1997. Section 3 of the bill amends section 320(g) of the Clean Water Act to allow NEP grants to be used for implementation in addition to development of comprehensive conservation management plans. The bill increases the authorization level for the National Estuary Program to $20 million in fiscal year 1998. The bill is silent on extending the authorization of appropriations beyond fiscal year 1998.

Representative Barcelo-Romero's bill corrects the limitation of the National Estuary Program that only allows NEP grant money to be used to support development activities. However, the increased authorization is only established for one fiscal year and is wholly inadequate an increase to enable significant progress in completing priority activities of approved CCMPs. American Oceans Campaign does not consider this approach to be a comprehensive measure for restoring nationally significant estuaries.

American Oceans Campaign joins with other conservation organizations in Puerto Rico and other national ocean advocacy groups in opposing section 2 of H.R. 2207. This section will allow the Mayaguez publicly owned treatment works to apply for a waiver from secondary treatment requirements and to discharge inadequately treated sewage at a to-be-constructed deep ocean outfall site.

OTHER LEGISLATIVE ISSUES IN THE YEAR OF THE OCEAN

Before I conclude my testimony, I would like to briefly discuss other important legislative issues affecting the oceans. As you know, 1998 has been declared the International Year of the Ocean by the United Nations. To encourage greater ocean protections, American Oceans Campaign is supporting a legislative "Ocean Package" and is encouraging members of Congress to support and "Vote for the Ocean" in 1998. Key elements of this legislative package include:

The Oceans Act (S. 1213/H.R. 3445). The Oceans Act was introduced by Senators Hollings, Stevens, Boxer, and Kerry, and by Representatives Farr and Saxton. The primary objective of the Oceans Act (H.R. 3445, S. 1213) is to reassess and refine U.S. programs and policies that affect oceans and marine life in order to craft a more coordinated vision for the future. The bill calls for the establishment of a 15 or 16-member national commission to study U.S. policies affecting ocean quality and health, including sustainable fisheries, pollution, transportation, coastal hazards, and exploration. The commission would issue comprehensive recommendations for improving national policies and programs within eighteen months of its establishment.

Current federal policies and funding to protect oceans and coasts derive from different laws, and responsibilities for safeguarding the oceans are divided among various federal agencies. Often, the objectives of these laws and agencies conflict. Using the commission's recommendations, directors of the many federal agencies charged with protecting ocean resources will work with other governmental entities and non-governmental partners to develop and implement a coordinated ocean and coastal policy for the nation.

The Senate has already passed S. 1213. The House bill is currently awaiting a mark-up by the House Resources Committee. We hope that in this International Year of the Ocean, the U.S. Congress will take a strong stand for a national ocean policy and pass the Oceans Act.

The B.E.A.C.H. Bill (S. 971/H.R. 2094). Beaches are the leading tourist destination in the United States. In 1997, California's beaches alone attracted almost 116 million visitors. This summer, many adults and children will swim, snorkel, surf or wade in beach waters that, unbeknownst to them, are contaminated by pathogens that may cause gastroenteritis, dysentery, hepatitis, and various nose, ear, and throat infections.

To protect themselves from harmful pathogens, swimmers must rely on beach water quality tests conducted by local public health agencies. Unfortunately, the testing standards and monitoring practices used by coastal states and localities vary significantly, and often vary within a state. Several states do not regularly monitor their beach waters for pathogen contamination and only a distinct minority of states and local communities consistently notify the public about poor beach water conditions.

The Natural Resources Defense Council conducts an annual survey of public beach closures along our nation's coasts. According to its 1997 report, Testing the Waters, Volume VII, beaches were closed or health advisories against swimming were issued more than 2,596 individual times during 1996. Several of these lasted more than one day. These figures underestimate the true extent of the problem since many states to not regularly test beach waters.

To address these problems, Representatives Pallone and Bilbray introduced the Beaches Environmental Assessment, Closure, and Health Act (the B.E.A.C.H. bill), H.R. 2094, last summer. Senators Lautenberg and Torricelli introduced a Senate companion bill, S. 971. The B.E.A.C.H. bill establishes a common-sense, national approach to the problems of inconsistent beach water quality testing and public notification. The bill requires coastal states to adopt water quality criteria for public recreational beach waters that are, at a minimum, consistent with U.S. EPA recommendations. It also directs EPA to work with states to develop monitoring programs that include timely public notification about contaminated beach waters.

Beach visitors have a right to know that the waters they choose to play in are safe for recreation. The B.E.A.C.H. bill promotes a nationwide commitment to ensure beach-goers receive the basic information needed to protect themselves and their families from harmful pathogens.

Essential Fish Habitat. There are currently a number of threats, both regulatory and legislative, to effective implementation of the essential fish habitat (EFH) provisions in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The EFH mandate was overwhelmingly passed by Congress in 1996 in order to address what Members of Congress described as "one of the greatest long-term threats to the viability of commercial and recreational fisheries." The mandate requires that fishery managers describe, identify, and protect areas necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, and growth to maturity.

Unfortunately, we now understand that some Members of the Appropriations Committees intend to repeal, weaken, issue exemptions for, or eliminate funding for fish habitat protection provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act through this year's annual funding process. These Members are responding to pressure from the non-fishing industry sector (including timber, ranching, mining, development, hydro-power, and others), which is concerned that the EFH mandate may compromise their short-term economic gain. If these Members succeed in their attempts to weaken, repeal, or debilitate the EFH implementation process, they will have sacrificed a vital public resource to the interests of the private sector.

Clean Water Appropriations. The Clinton Administration's proposed budget for fiscal year 1999 includes a Clean Water and Watershed Restoration Initiative, calling for increases for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Interior, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prevent polluted runoff, protect public health, and restore waters. American Oceans Campaign fully supports these increases and urges Congress to appropriate these monies to bring about the needed improvements to our nation's waterways. (Attachment 2)

Polluted runoff is a major source of water quality impairment in coastal waters, rivers, and lakes. Polluted runoff threatens the health of our families and destroys important fish and wildlife habitats. Each time it rains, water runs off the land and picks up toxic pesticides and fertilizers from farm fields and lawns, heavy metals and oils from streets, manure from animal feedlots, metals from mining sites, and sediment from construction sites, farms, and timber operations. This polluted runoff carries these contaminants into our drinking, fishing, and swimming waters. In addition, sediment buries the underwater vegetation in rivers and coastal waters that sustains juvenile fish and shellfish.

In order to achieve the Clean Water Act's goal of having waters safe for swimming and fishing, we must maximize our efforts to prevent polluted runoff. So far, a few of the Appropriations bills have included significant increases to support the Clean Water and Watershed Restoration Budget Initiative. As members of the committee with oversight responsibilities for many of the clean water programs, I encourage you to continue working to ensure full funding for clean water improvements, particularly in the polluted runoff budgets for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Harmful Algal Bloom Research and Control Act (S. 1480). Last November, Senators Snowe and Breaux introduced S. 1480 to address a serious and growing national problem affecting our coasts. Harmful algal blooms, such as red tides and brown tides, are increasing in severity and frequency along our coasts. Outbreaks of harmful algal blooms can cause fish kills, poison humans and wildlife, close fisheries, and impair the aesthetics and recreational uses of coastal waters. It has been estimated that the annual economic losses associated with harmful algal bloom impacts range from $35 to $65 million.

A similarly significant problem affecting estuaries is hypoxia. Waters that contain low levels of dissolved oxygen are considered to be hypoxic. Hypoxic water conditions do not support marine life and create "dead zones." Off the coast of Louisiana and Texas, a dead zone covering 6,000 to 7,000 square miles (about the size of New Jersey) appears during the summer months. The Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound also experience periodic hypoxic conditions.

There is strong evidence linking nutrient loadings with hypoxia and growing evidence associating many outbreaks of harmful algal blooms with an overabundance of nutrients. Measures to restrict the amount of nitrogen being introduced to estuarine and coastal waters from agricultural operations, concentrated animal feeding operations, sewage treatment plants, and atmospheric deposition will assist efforts to control the outbreaks of harmful algal blooms and hypoxia.

The Snowe-Breaux Harmful Algal Bloom bill authorizes additional funds to support ongoing harmful algal bloom research and coastal zone management activities conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Often, these activities involve partnerships with coastal states and universities. American Oceans Campaign particularly supports dedicating additional monies to assist states in finalizing and implementing coastal nonpoint pollution management programs. These programs provide technical and financial assistance to states to help develop strategies for addressing the threats of polluted runoff in our nation's coastal waters.

Coastal Title to the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act was last reauthorized in 1987. During the 103rd and 104th Congresses, bills to reauthorize the Clean Water Act were presented for votes (the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed S. 2093 in 1994, the House passed H.R. 961 in 1995). Neither of these bills garnered the full support of American Oceans Campaign; however, we were supportive of the addition of stronger coastal protection provisions in a Coastal Title to S. 2093.

In future considerations of the Clean Water Act reauthorization, American Oceans Campaign, along with the Center for Marine Conservation and other coastal advocacy organizations urge Congress to add a Coastal Title to the Clean Water Act. Such a title could be closely based upon the Coastal Title that was added to S. 2093 in the 103rd Congress. A Coastal Title should include sections to: strengthen the National Estuary Program (H.R. 2374), establish coastal and marine water quality criteria; devise uniform beach monitoring programs that assures appropriate public notification when waters are too contaminated for safe swimming (S. 971, H.R. 2094); strengthen MARPOL compliance and restrict garbage from ships; ensure the availability of adequate pumpout facilities for recreational boat sewage and marine sanitation devices; and strengthen ocean discharge criteria. I would welcome the opportunity to help put together such a Title.

CONCLUSION

It is time for the federal government to do more to advance a comprehensive, national strategy for estuary protection. Efforts of the National Estuary Program have improved the knowledge of water quality problems affecting estuaries and have developed numerous actions that will support the clean up of these waters. Coastal communities, states, and citizen organizations have initiated successful estuary habitat restoration projects and have identified several more projects needing immediate attention.

The approaches contained in the Chafee Estuary Habitat Restoration Partnership Act and the Lowey-DeLauro-Shays Water Pollution Control and Estuary Restoration Act make substantial strides in achieving such a comprehensive strategy. Both bills recognize the important contributions states, localities, businesses and concerned citizens make to improving estuaries. They facilitate inter-agency coordination among various federal agencies. They reward developing solutions to sometimes difficult water quality and habitat concerns. Finally, they increase the federal financial contributions to ensure estuaries will remain special, productive places for the future.

I urge this Committee to combine S. 1222 and H.R. 2374 in a subsequent Committee mark-up and work to ensure passage of these important estuary protection provisions by the end of this Congress. I appreciate the opportunity to testify on legislative initiatives to improve estuary protections. I look forward to working with this Committee on these and other estuary issues.