Testimony of Robert G. Torricelli
Before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
July 9, 1997

Thank you Chairman Chafee for the opportunity to appear before the Committee and for your cosponsorship of S.1321. I would also like to thank Senators Lautenberg, Moynihan, Graham, Lieberman, and Boxer for their cosponsorship of the bill as well.

Today we stand at a crossroads in our national coastal policy. After years of federal involvement, we are becoming lax in maintaining a consistent level of investment in our nation's coastlines.

Our coasts are an integral part of our national infrastructure. As we approach the next century, we must treat them like our roads, schools, and technology, as the foundation of economic development, job creation, and current prosperity.

Since the creation of the Beach and Erosion Board in the 1 930's the federal government has taken an active role in preserving our beaches.

Yet the Administration sees things differently and has even ignored the intent of Congress on the federal role established 12 years ago.

Even though the 1986 Water Resources Development Act established the current funding format where the federal government pays 65% of beach replenishment projects, the Administration's 1998 proposal turned the relationship on its head by reducing the federal share to 35% of the renourishment phase (which is typically 80-85% of the project cost.)

Beach replenishment is but one example of the lapse of the federal commitment to our coastline. I trust the Committee, with the help of the senior Senator from New Jersey, will rectify this issue as they consider the Water Resources Development Act.

However, at this hearing we are examining another equally important issue_our nation's estuaries.

Estuaries are important to the economy for their fish and wildlife habitat as well as providing centers for boating and recreational activity.

75% of the U.S. commercial fish catch depends on estuaries

New Jersey is the leading supplier of surf clams in the nation with one of our most productive clam grounds located in Barnegat Bay estuary.

Our nation's coasts are also a central element of the tourism industry which nationally employs 14.4 million people and contributes over 10% to our GDP, making it the second-largest sector in the economy.

In New Jersey, fishing, boating, and outdoor recreation are important components of our $25 billion tourist economy.

A million fishermen participate in New Jersey's's marine recreational fishery

With all this economic activity, in addition to land development and associated activities it is obvious that, our estuaries are heavily used resources under severe environmental pressures.

Over 400,000 people live in the Barnegat Bay estuary; in the summer that number doubles to 800,000.

There are 1 16 marinas and boat launching sites in the Barnegat Bay estuary where one third of New Jersey's boats are registered.

The popularity of Barnegat Bay has caused non-point source pollution from runoff and storm water discharges resulting in blooms of brown tide algae in 1995, 1997, and as recently as last month.

In other estuaries, intense urban development has resulted in major pollution sources. There are 730 Combined Sewage Overflows in New York-New Jersey Harbor that will take $2-6 billion to correct.

With all of these pressures, Congress recognized the importance of developing a program that would help states and localities plan for their protection and restoration.

The 1987 Clean Water Act Amendments established the National Estuary Program (NEP) which created a federal partnership with state and local governments to prepare comprehensive management plans for estuaries of national significance threatened by pollution.

Over the years 28 estuaries were designated with 3 in New Jersey

The federal government would provide funds while the state and local governments developed the plans.

17 of the 28 designated estuaries have completed plans

However, the NEP has not been reauthorized since 1991, and today the states cannot receive federal funding to implement their plans.

The premise behind S.1321 is simple: the federal government must continue to support those who have developed plans but are no longer eligible for federal assistance.

In reauthorizing the NEP at $50 million annually, S.1321 also includes the authority to make grants for plan implementation so those with completed plans can receive assistance as well as those who are still developing them.

S. 1321 would insure that the federal government lives up to its commitment to make investments to protect our nationally significant estuaries.

Mr. Chairman, I want to again thank you for your cosponsorship of S. 1321 as well as for your sponsorship of S. 1222, the Estuary Habitat Restoration Partnership Act.

Your support of these bills as well as the Committee's efforts in holding hearings today on coastal pollution reduction and estuary conservation demonstrate your commitment to solving these problems. I look forward to working with you and the Committee on these important legislative initiatives.