Amendment Will Include Sea Level Change in Estuary Management Plans
Washington, D.C. – The House of Representatives today passed the Clean Estuaries Act (H.R. 4715), which includes an amendment by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s amendment ensures that the comprehensive conservation and management plans within the National Estuary Program (NEP) address the impacts and potential effects of sea level change. Changes in sea level could result in changes in water quality or the estuarine habitat, as well as threaten infrastructure in the estuary. You can view Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s remarks on the House floor on her amendment here. This bill also reauthorizes and improves the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s NEP through FY 2016, which promotes planning efforts to help protect estuaries in the United States that are considered to be threatened by pollution, development, or overuse. This bill passed the House with bipartisan support by a vote of 278 to 128.
“This bill will benefit the coastal region of New Hampshire, both economically and environmentally,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “New Hampshire’s coast is a significant economic driver, and Granite Staters have always worked together to protect our natural resources. My amendment will further protect our coastal communities by ensuring that sea level change is taken into account when the comprehensive conservation and management plans are constructed.”
The First District of New Hampshire is home to Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP). PREP, which was previously known as the New Hampshire Estuaries Project, has been part of the National Estuaries Program since 1995 and works to protect two estuarine systems in New Hampshire: Great Bay/Little Bay and Hampton Harbor. The partnership has included the entire Great Bay watershed in their area of focus, which includes 42 communities in New Hampshire and 10 communities in Maine. The NEP has been a significant source of funding and resources, assisting PREP in their valuable work. This reauthorization will make the program stronger and allow for more estuaries to be included.
The Clean Estuaries Act increases the NEP’s authorization from $35 million to $50 million annually to add estuaries, will provide new accountability measures, and will require the EPA to submit a report to Congress on the program’s effectiveness. Estuaries provide habitat for 75% of the commercial fishing catch and up to 90% of the recreational fishing catch in this country. Commercial and recreational fishing annually accounts for $185 billion in revenues, and for more than two million jobs.