TESTIMONY OF ROBERT H. WAYLAND III
ROBERT H. WAYLAND III
DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF WETLANDS, OCEANS AND WATERSHEDS
OFFICE OF WATER
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
SUBCOMMITTEE ON WATER RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT
COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
July 9, 1997
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee. I am Robert H. Wayland III, Director of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds. I am accompanied today by Suzanne Schwartz, Acting Director of the Oceans and Coastal Protection Division. I am pleased to be here today to provide this statement addressing ocean and coastal waters.
We all recognize the importance of this Nation's ocean and coastal waters and the resources they contain. These waters provide some of the most diverse and biologically productive habitat in the country. Ocean and coastal waters also hold great recreational and commercial value for this country. Coastal waters support 28.3 million jobs and generate $54 billion in goods and services every year. Tourism-related businesses serve 180 million Americans visiting the coasts each year, and the recreational fishing industry contributes $30 billion to the U.S. economy annually. Because so many people are drawn to, or dependent on, ocean and coastal waters, restoring, maintaining and enhancing their health and sustainability is of great importance. EPA is undertaking a number of efforts to help ensure the continued viability of our ocean and coastal waters, which I will briefly describe in my testimony. In addition, we have been devoting our attention to issues associated with the disposal and management of dredged material from the Port of New York and New Jersey. I will start my testimony with an update on dredging issues.
EPA Responsibilities under the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA)
EPA's coastal and ocean programs operate under a number of laws, including the Clean Water Act (CWA); the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA); and, the Marine Plastic Pollution Research Control Act (regarding marine debris). I would like to note that this year is the twenty-fifth anniversary for both the CWA and the MPRSA.
Under the MPRSA, as amended by the Ocean Dumping Ban Act and the Water Resources Development Act, EPA has statutory authority for developing environmental criteria and for issuing permits for materials dumped in ocean waters (except dredged material, which is permitted by the Army Corps of Engineers subject to EPA concurrence). Materials currently authorized for ocean dumping include dredged material, processed fish wastes from one facility in American Samoa, the disposal of human remains, and the disposal of vessels used for target practice by the U.S. Navy. EPA also has statutory responsibility for the designation, monitoring, and management of all ocean dumping sites. Under Section 404 of the CWA, EPA has responsibilities with respect to dredged material management, through development of the environmental criteria and review of applications for Corps permits. Another of our CWA authorities, which I will discuss later, is Section 320, the National Estuary Program.
National Dredging Policy
In December, 1994, the Interagency Working Group on the Dredging Process published a report to the Secretary of Transportation containing a proposed national dredging policy and an action plan for improving the dredging process. The policy's main findings are: that this nation's network of ports and harbors is essential to the U.S. economy, and that to keep them viable, they must be dredged in a timely and cost effective manner; the nation's coastal, ocean and freshwater resources are critical assets which much be preserved and protected; and, consistent and integrated application of existing environmental statutes can protect the environment and allow for sustainable economic growth. As part of implementation of this plan, the interagency National Dredging Team (NDT) was established in 1995. It will help promote national and regional consistency on dredging issues and provide a forum for conflict resolution and information exchange. The NDT is co-chaired by EPA and the Corps of Engineers. Other members include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and National Marine Fisheries Service. Regional Dredging Teams (RDTs) have also been created to provide a forum for local and regional issue resolution, foster information exchange with stakeholders, and provide liaison with local dredged material management planning groups. The NDT and RDTs are working to demonstrate that the economic viability and environmental health of ports are not mutually exclusive, and that both can be accomplished more quickly, and with more certainty, than sometimes has been the case.
Implementation of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 1992 and 1996 Amendments to the Ocean Dumping Act
WRDA '92 amended the Ocean Dumping Act to provide, in general, for the final designation of dumpsites by EPA by January 1, 1997, and the development of site management plans (SMPs) for dumpsites in conjunction with the Corps. Where use of an EPA-designated site is not feasible, WRDA '92 continues to allow for the Corps to select an alternative site under section 103 of the Ocean Dumping Act. In March 1996, EPA and the Corps of Engineers jointly issued national guidance on site management plan development for ocean dumping sites. At present 105 designated sites exist -- 75 of which have received final designation and 30 of which were interim-designated based on their historical usage. Forty three of the 75 final sites have approved SMPs. We are working to develop SMPs for the remaining final sites. We also will be initiating discussions with the Corps in order to explore the continued need for the 30 remaining interim sites.
WRDA '96, in recognition of the potential for using dredged material beneficially instead of disposing of it, provided authority that the Secretary of the Army may select a method for the disposal of dredged material that does not need to be the "least-cost" option if it is determined that the incremental costs of the chosen disposal method are reasonable in relation to the environmental benefits, including the benefits to the aquatic environment to be derived from the creation of wetlands and control of shoreline erosion. We strongly support beneficial uses of dredged material whenever possible.
The Administration's Plan for the Dredging of New York/New Jersey Harbor
On July 24, 1996, the Administration announced its plan to address the need to dredge the Port of New York and New Jersey, with the twin goals of ensuring the port's economic viability and protecting the surrounding environment. Consistent with the Administration's plan, (1) the Mud Dump Site has been proposed for closure by September 1, 1997, and the Historic Area Remediation Site (HARS) simultaneously proposed for designation; (2) the Administration has undertaken a series of steps to expedite the dredging permit process; and (3) the Administration is taking steps to address the long-term future of the port.
We have made good progress to date in meeting the Administration's plan. On May 13, 1997, EPA issued a proposed rule to de-designate the Mud Dump Site and simultaneously designate the HARS. EPA conducted three hearings this June on the proposed rule and its associated supplemental environmental impact statement and site management and monitoring plan. The comment period on the rule closed on June 30, 1997, and we anticipate that the final rule will be issued on schedule by September 1, 1997.
In addition, in order to help reduce uncertainty in the permit review process, we promulgated a rule on September 30, 1996, clarifying the number of species needed in biological tests. With respect specifically to NY/NJ Harbor, EPA has worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a coordinated process to review permit applications and begin dredging and disposal, in an environmentally sound manner, to help solve the Harbor's short-term dredging needs. As a result, we are pleased to report that a number of dredging permits have been issued, and projects are authorized and underway.
Handling longer-term dredging needs is more complicated, however, as a large percentage of the sediments in New York Harbor are too contaminated for placement in the ocean. Alternative disposal or treatment methods must be identified for the future. EPA looks forward to working with the Corps in developing a dredged material management plan for NY/NJ Harbor that is essential for addressing this issue. An interim plan was released for public consideration in September 1996.
To ensure the long-term health of the Port and the environment, EPA also is continuing to support the development of dredged material decontamination technologies. We currently are developing a pilot for a 500,000 cubic yard/year facility by 1999, as required by WRDA '96. While the large-scale use of these technologies is not likely in the near future, we are hopeful that they will prove effective as dredged material management techniques in the future. However, I must note that the recent report by the National Research Council, entitled "Contaminated Sediments in Ports and Waterways: Cleanup Strategies and Technologies," indicated that decontamination technologies are very costly, and may not be cost-effective even in full-scale implementation. In addition, we are very pleased that the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the New York/New Jersey Harbor National Estuary Program has been approved. The implementation of this plan should improve the water quality of the Harbor, and reduce the level of contaminants in Harbor sediments in the future.
Finally, under the Administration's plan, EPA has established a nine month process which will involve all affected groups -- industry, labor, environmental -- in helping the Agency review the ocean disposal testing requirements and ensuring that any further revision reflects sound policy and science. Currently, a facilitator has met with many interested stakeholders around the country to identify pertinent issues and to determine interest in participating on an advisory committee being established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
Other Important Ocean and Coastal Protection Efforts
In addition to the dredging related matters I have touched on above, EPA is also engaged in several other important efforts to protect coastal and ocean water quality. Beach Water Quality Standards
On May 23 of this year, Administrator Browner announced the Agency's new Beaches Environmental Assessment Closure and Health Program ("BEACH Program"). The BEACH Program will help States strengthen their beach and recreational water-quality monitoring and advisory programs to better protect the health of swimmers and recreational users from swimming in contaminated beach water.
During the summer of l996, State and local governments reported almost 3,000 beach closings or warnings because of the presence of, or the potential for, disease-carrying bacteria, viruses and other pathogens present in local beach water, primarily from sewage and stormwater runoff. High levels of these pathogens increase human exposure through ingestion, body contact and inhalation, increasing the risk of illness.
Through the BEACH Program, EPA is working with the States and tribes to ensure adequate standards are in place and that State, tribal and local governments have monitoring programs that indicate the presence of disease causing microorganisms and inform the public of potential health risks. The three main points of the BEACH Program are: strengthening State, tribal and local programs; improving the technical foundation of beach monitoring; and, developing and implementing new tools to inform the public.
A long-term research plan will develop faster and more accurate methods to confirm contamination and methods to predict when and where contamination may occur to advise the public before they are exposed to potentially harmful contaminants. We are also developing a database on the incidence and cause of beach closures nationally. EPA's new Internet website, called "Beach Watch," is located on the Internet at: http://www.epa.gov/OST/beaches. Among other things, Beach Watch contains information about local beaches and answers to frequently asked questions about beach contamination. By the summer of l998, the website will serve as a clearinghouse to provide the public national access to health-related information, available today from States and other sources, on recreational water quality around the country. National Estuary Program
The National Estuary Program (NEP) was established by Congress to address the complex problems associated with estuary management. Estuaries are one of the most productive types of ecosystems, and yet are also among the most stressed. The NEP, which currently consists of 28 estuary programs, seeks not only to protect and restore the health of estuaries and their living resources, but also to support human economic activities by promoting planning and management measures that address a full range of resource concerns. This is accomplished through local communities that, through a consensus-based process, identify problems faced in their estuary, develop recommendations on how best to address those problems, and work together to implement agreed upon actions. This emphasis on public participation not only ensures a balanced approach to solving resource problems, but encourages local communities to take the lead in determining the future of their own estuaries. EPA believes that this approach has been successful, and that it will continue to improve the health of the 28 estuaries now in the program. We are also working actively to ensure that we use what we have learned in these 28 estuaries to protect and improve the health of all coastal ecosystems. In fact, the NEP's approach to environmental protection is one we are supporting as a model for watershed protection nationwide. Marine Debris
Marine debris is one of the more visible pollution problems in our ocean and coastal waters. In addition to being unpleasant, marine debris can also be dangerous. Two hundred and sixty seven marine species are known to become entangled in, or ingest, marine debris, which can result in death. Marine debris can also pose navigational hazards for vessels. The National Marine Debris Monitoring Program, an effort coordinated by the Center for Marine Conservation and supported by EPA, is a scientific monitoring protocol designed by an inter-agency workgroup of EPA, NOAA, NPS, and the USCG to address the amounts and sources of marine debris on our Nation's shores. The program, which uses volunteer monitors, is already underway along the Gulf and East coasts, and will help us identify sources, amounts, and trends in marine debris on U.S. shorelines. We anticipate the data collected will be useful in identifying sources of debris and in developing control measures. Uniform National Discharge Standards for Vessels of the Armed Forces
EPA and the U.S. Navy currently are involved in a joint effort to develop uniform standards for operational discharges from vessels of the armed forces under section 312 of the CWA. Established by a CWA amendment contained in the 1996 Defense Authorization Act, the Uniform National Discharge Standards (UNDS) program will enable the Navy to design their discharges to one environmentally protective, uniform standard. EPA and the Navy are also hoping to realize, through this joint effort, the development of innovative vessel pollution control technologies that can be transferred to the private sector. Nation-wide meetings with State representatives will be underway this summer to solicit their input on the UNDS framework. Environmental interests will be invited to participate as well. Even though they affect only vessels of the armed forces, the UNDS regulations will be issued in proposed form for public comment as well. Year of the Reef and Year of the Ocean
The importance of coastal and ocean resources is evident in the world community as well. 1997 is the International Year of the Reef, and a number of activities are going on around the world to call attention to the degradation of these fragile resources which serve as extremely productive habitat for a large number of aquatic species. Indeed, coral reefs have been characterized as the rain forests of the oceans. EPA is working on development of guidance on use of the watershed approach for protection of coral reefs, so that all potential negative environmental impacts, not just those occurring close to reefs, are taken into account when developing plans for protecting coral reef communities. We have also contributed to the production of educational materials to help inform the public on the problems facing coral reef ecosystems.
In addition, the United Nations has declared 1998 to be the Year of the Ocean (YOTO). The goal of YOTO is to call attention to the decisive role played by the ocean in shaping the life of the planet. While the U.S. is just beginning to formulate its plans for participating in YOTO, we do anticipate a two-fold effort. The first will be an effort by federal agencies to identify and assess issues of global importance regarding the oceans. The second effort is a workgroup consisting of all parties interested in ocean issues. This group will be responsible for raising public awareness of the oceans and ocean issues. It is comprised of representatives from industry, non-profit organizations, environmental groups, federal/State/local/tribal governments and media organizations.
Through activities such as the International Year of the Reef and the Year of the Ocean, as well as the 25th anniversary of the CWA, we look forward to renewing and strengthening our commitment to protecting our coastal and ocean resources.
That concludes my prepared remarks. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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