H.R. 4715: Clean Estuaries Act of 2010

H.R. 4715

Clean Estuaries Act of 2010

Sponsor
Rep. Timothy H. Bishop

Date
April 15, 2010 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

H.R. 4715 is expected to be considered on the floor on Thursday, April 15, 2010, under a structured rule making in order seven amendments.  The rule also provides same day and suspension authority through April 16, 2010, for a measure regarding the extension of unemployment insurance.

This legislation was introduced by Representative Tim Bishop (D-NY) on March 2, 2010, and referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which held a mark-up and reported the bill by voice vote the following day.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4715, the Clean Estuaries Act of 2010, reauthorizes section 320 of the Clean Water Act which extends the Environmental Protection Agency's National Estuary Program through FY2016, and increases the authorization to $50 million (currently $35 million) in each fiscal year for the next five year. 

The bill requires the estuary management conferences, which are composed of state, local, federal, private and nonprofit entities, to develop a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plans (CCMP). The plans would identity candidate estuaries and associated upstream water, recommend priority corrective actions and compliance schedules, and determine current and future sustainable commercial activities in the estuary.  The bill would also require that the plans address the impact of climate change on the estuary.

The bill requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state officials in which the estuary is located, to monitor the estuary and associated water quality conditions, monitor habitat conditions related to the ecological health and water quality conditions, and to monitor the effectiveness of the actions taken as part of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan.

The measure directs the EPA to approve and implement the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan no later than 120 days after the plan is submitted. The bill increases the evaluation of the implementation of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan by requiring each National Estuary Program (NEP) to be evaluated every four years. 

The bill requires that any federal agency activities affecting the estuary be conducted, to the extent possible, in a consistent manner with the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP).

Background

An estuary is the area at the mouth of a river where freshwater and seawater mix and includes marshes, bays, and mudflats.  Estuaries experience both outflows from rivers and inflows from the ocean, which provides a unique environment for a variety of plant and aquatic wildlife.

In 1987, Congress added section 320 to the Clean Water Act establishing, within the EPA, the National Estuaries Program (NEP).  The program is intended to promote comprehensive evaluation and planning efforts to protect estuaries in the United States that are deemed to be threatened by pollution, development, or overuse.

Currently, 28 National Estuary Programs receive federal funding.  The funding is used for grants planning and management activities to address the degradation of the estuaries.  The EPA implements this program and oversees all NEP activities in each of the 28 estuaries.  

Congress reauthorized section 320 of the Clean Water Act in 2000 for five years and increased the authorization amount to $35 million.  It had previously been authorized $12 million for each fiscal year.  In 2004, Congress again reauthorized section 320 at the same annual funding level through fiscal year 2010.

Cost

According to CBO, H.R. 4715 would increase the authorized annual funding level to $50 million from 2011 to 2015.  CBO estimates that implementing this legislation would cost $216 million over the 2011-2015 period, assuming appropriation of the authorized amount. 

Amendments

  • 1.) Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN): (1) Ensure that program evaluations assess whether the implementation of a comprehensive conservation and management plan is achieving its stated goals; (2) enhance public education on the connections between air, land, and water and the potential impacts on estuarine health; (3) strike the existing statutory priority list for estuaries to clarify that existing and proposed management conferences enter or remain in the program on a competitive basis, and (4) remove individuals from the list of approved recipients for grants under this program.
  • 2.) Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Rep. Henry Chueller (D-TX): Require the administrator to evaluate the effectiveness of the program; identify and disseminate best practices for positive outcomes; and identify and limit redundant rules, regulations and reporting requirements.
  • 3.) Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI): Require estuary programs to include in their comprehensive conservation and management plans a coordinated monitoring strategy between federal, state, and local entities.
  • 4.) Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI): Define "estuary" under the Clean Water Act to include Great Lakes waters and wetlands that are similar to traditional estuaries covered by the National Estuary Program.
  • 5.) Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI): Add trend monitoring of the introduction and establishment of nonnative species, including their pathways for introduction in estuarine zones to the list of research programs the Administrator can carry out.
  • 6.) Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH):  Ensure that comprehensive conservation and management plans address the impacts and potential effects of sea level change.
  • 7.) Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD): Make explicit that collaborative processes should be used to develop the management plan. It would call for the equitable inclusion of all relevant estuary stakeholders; the use of neutral facilitators and processes to resolve conflicts; and the inclusion and use of up-to-date information, among other considerations.