Federal Legislative Update
The views or information contained here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or the US EPA.
The Buzzards Bay NEP often receives inquiries from local officials regarding the status of Federal Legislation relating to funding for the US EPA National Estuary Program. This is because past legislation has resulted in federal funds for technical assistance programs or grants for Buzzards Bay municipalities to assist them in their efforts to implement watershed Management Plans like the one in place for Buzzards Bay (The Buzzards Bay “CCMP”).
Reauthorization of the National Estuary Program
Authorization of Section 320 of the Clean Water Act (the National Estuary Program) had expired in 2010. In June 2015, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) introduced legislation, cosponsored by Senator David Vitter (LA), to re-authorize the National Estuary Program (NEP). The bill, S.1523, was titled “A bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to reauthorize the National Estuary Program, and for other purposes.” On May 20, 2016, Senate bill 1523 became Public Law No: 114-162.
While the NEP was reauthorized in 2016, ensuring at least $700,000 in funding for each NEP, funding for the program remains uncertain at this time. For the latest actions on Capitol Hill, visit the Coastal States Organization legislative update page, or visit the Association for National Estuary Programs legislative update page.
Noteworthy past legislation relevant to NEPs
In 2005, the Appropriation Committee in the house and Senate reorganized. Currently EPA is in the House House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies , and in the Senate subcommittee Senate Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.
NEP reauthorization in 2004
The National Estuary Program is designed to promote comprehensive planning for the long-term protection of estuaries through collaborative voluntary efforts of Federal, State, local, non-profit and private interests. On October 11, 2004, the 108th Congress reauthorized the National Estuary Program for another 5 years. Funding authorization is set at $35 million annually. The bill, HR 4731 was introduced by Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) on June 25, 2004. At hearings for the bill, Richard Ribb, Director of the Narragansett Bay NEP and Vice-Chair for the Association of National Estuary Programs, testified that the NEP has evolved into a leader for coastal protection and action over the years. He noted that the NEPs have, on average, leveraged $11 dollars for each Clean Water Act dollar contributed. He also noted that the NEP was one of a handful of federal non-regulatory programs that truly attempts to address local concerns.
Estuary Restoration Act of 2000 (PL 106 457, Title I)
The purpose of the Act is to promote the restoration of estuary habitat; to develop a national Estuary Habitat Restoration Strategy for creating and maintaining effective partnerships within the Federal government and with the private sector; to provide Federal assistance for and promote efficient financing of estuary habitat restoration projects; and to develop and enhance monitoring, data sharing, and research capabilities. The Act had wide agency and bipartisan support. It was championed by nongovernmental organizations such as Restore America’s Estuaries. Estuaries are defined under the Act to include the Great Lakes. The Act affects 30 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam.
The Act authorizes a program under which the Secretary of the Army may carry out projects and provide technical assistance to meet the restoration goal. Costs of projects funded under the Act must be shared with non Federal parties. Non Federal responsibilities and project selection criteria are discussed in the Act. Funds for project implementation have not yet been appropriated. The “Estuary Habitat Restoration Council” consisting of representatives of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (www.noaa.gov), Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov/owow), Department of the Interior (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)(www.fws.gov), Department of Agriculture (www.usda.gov), and the Department of Army. There may also be one ex officio member appointed by the President.
Responsibilities of the Council include soliciting, evaluating, reviewing, and recommending project proposals for funding, developing a national strategy, reviewing the effectiveness of the strategy and providing advice on development of databases, monitoring standards, and reports required under the Act.
The Council has developed a national strategy to ensure a comprehensive and integrated restoration approach and foster coordination of Federal and non Federal restoration activities. The goal of the strategy is to restore 1,000,000 acres of habitat by 2010.
The Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, Department of Commerce is developing a database of information concerning estuary habitat restoration projects and for developing standard data formats and requirements for project monitoring. Existing NOAA programs are to be used and the information is to be made available to the public.
Federal Legislation and Law Search
The Buzzards Bay Watershed Congressional Districts
As a result of the 2010 US Census, Massachusetts lost a congressional delegate, and the state was redistricted. Presently the watershed is shared between Congressmen Barney Frank (who announced his retirement) and William Keating. The boundaries have changed, and now the entire Buzzards Bay watershed will be in the new Massachusetts 9th District, as of the fall 2012 election.
For maps of State Representatives and State Senators, go to our Massachusetts Laws page.