House Amendment to S. 1523, A bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to reauthorize the National Estuary Program, and for other purposes

S. 1523

A bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to reauthorize the National Estuary Program, and for other purposes

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

April 26, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, April 26, 2016, the House will consider the House amendment to S. 1523, a bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to reauthorize the National Estuary Program, under suspension of the rules. S. 1523 was introduced on June 8, 2015 by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and was referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works which ordered the bill reported without amendment favorably on August 5, 2015. S. 192 passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent with an amendment on August 5, 2015.

Bill Summary

S. 1523 amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to revise the National Estuary Program by requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make competitive awards to address urgent and challenging issues that threaten the economic and ecological well-being of coastal areas. The House voted on similar legislation, H.R. 944, on June 1, 2015, which passed by voice vote.

The House amendment keeps the Senate bill number and strikes all of the Senate text and inserts the House-passed version of H.R 944, with two modifications. First, a compromise was reached to authorize annual appropriations for the program at $26.5 million instead of $27 million. Second, a technical change not considered in either the House of the Senate bill will ensure funds provided under the National Estuary Program go to actual grants, not EPA overhead.

The previous legislative digest for H.R. 944 can be found here.


“Estuaries, which are partially enclosed waterbodies where freshwater from land drainage through rivers or streams flows into an open sea or the ocean, are unique and highly productive waters that are important to the ecological and economic bases of our nation. In particular, fisheries, wildlife, recreation, and tourism are heavily dependent on healthy estuarine systems. Yet, despite their value, most estuaries in the United States are experiencing stress from physical alteration and pollution, often resulting from development and rapid population growth in coastal cities and counties.”[1]

In the mid-1980’s, Congress reorganized the importance of, and the need to protect the natural functions of, estuaries. As a result, in 1987, as part of Public Law 100-4, Congress added section 320 to the Clean Water Act to establish the National Estuary Program (NEP). The NEP is designed to promote comprehensive planning for long-term protection of nationally significant estuaries in the United States that are deemed to be threatened by pollution, development, or overuse, through collaborative voluntary efforts of federal, state, local, non-profit, and private interests.  The NEP aims to address water quality problems in, and promote the ecological integrity of, estuaries.  The NEP coordinates and provides funding for long-term planning and management activities to address the complex factors that contribute to the degradation of estuaries.[2]

[1] House Report 114-104 at 2.
[2] Id.


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate for the House amendment is unavailable, but an estimate for H.R. 944, of which the language is included in this amendment, can be found here. The amendment authorizes $26.5 million annually for five years, and the program currently receives $27 million annually in appropriations.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 2-1374.