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Ocean and Coastal Protection in New England

The Ocean and Coastal Protection Unit administers federal programs to protect marine and estuarine waters in New England. The unit's responsibilities include regulating the disposal of dredged material, vessel sewage, and other wastes; managing the six National Estuary Programs in New England; administering grants to support state and local beach monitoring programs; conducting environmental impact reviews of federal activities in coastal waters; and assisting with the issuance of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for discharges that may affect marine water quality and/or fishery resources.

The unit also is involved in coastal initiatives related to the new National Ocean Policy including helping to resolve conflicting uses of the ocean through regional and state ocean planning efforts; the Northeast Regional Ocean Council Click icon for EPA disclaimer. ; the Gulf of Maine Council Click icon for EPA disclaimer. ; climate change resilience and adaptation planning; various monitoring programs such as the National Coastal Assessment and Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems Click icon for EPA disclaimer. ; and habitat restoration efforts through Coastal America with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Click icon for EPA disclaimer. and other federal, state, and local agencies and organizations.

The Ocean and Coastal Protection Unit conducts its programs and activities under the authority of the following federal statutes:

  • Clean Water Act (CWA)
  • Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA),
  • Estuary Restoration Act (ERA)
  • Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act
  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

Specifically, the Ocean and Coastal Protection Unit:

  • Supports the six National Estuary Programs (NEPs) in New England in implementing their Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plans, including coordination with related EPA programs and other federal, state, and local government agencies.
  • Ensures the six New England NEPs are working with EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries Program, which provides technical and financial assistance for climate change vulnerability assessments and resiliency projects.
  • Works with other federal agencies, state and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and the regulated community to adapt water programs to a changing climate in New England.
  • Works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal and state agencies to regulate dredging and dredged material management, including permitting of dredging projects and the designation, management, and monitoring of dredged material disposal sites.
  • Works with other federal and state agencies to regulate vessel sewage discharges, including designation of "No Discharge Zones"; Burial At Sea; and the ocean disposal of vessels, fish waste, and other material.
  • Administers BEACH Act grants to states for coastal beach monitoring programs, and encourages coordination between beach monitoring and pollution control programs.
  • Prepares Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) for coastal activities proposed by EPA (e.g., dredged material disposal site designations, NPDES new sources permitting) and assists with other federal agency's EISs.
  • Supports the Region's Office of Environmental Review in reviewing other federal agency's EISs for ocean and coastal development projects.
  • Conducts technical reviews and biological assessments to help establish conditions for NPDES permits for power plants and other facilities with marine water intakes and thermal discharges.
  • Reviews applications for waivers from secondary treatment requirements for point source discharges into marine waters.
  • Works with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) to coordinate the activities of the MWRA Outfall Monitoring Science Advisory Panel (OMSAP), which provides advice to EPA and MA DEP on potential impacts of the Massachusetts Bay discharge.
  • Assists other EPA programs to ensure compliance with federal requirements such as the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, the Endangered Species Act, the essential fish habitat requirements of the Magnuson-Stevenson Fisheries Conservation Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act.
  • Assists with development of national water quality criteria and review of state water quality standards for marine and estuarine waters, including establishment of numeric nutrient criteria.
  • Provides technical assistance to state and local water and sediment quality monitoring programs and projects, and public education programs.
  • Manages EPA Region 1 Dive Unit and conducts SCUBA diving operations to monitor and assess water and habitat quality. For more information about Scientific Diving at EPA, please visit: Scientific Diving (Region 10) or the EPA Diving Facebook Page. Click icon for EPA disclaimer. 
  • Represents EPA Region 1 on the Northeast Aquatic Nuisance Species (NEANS) Click icon for EPA disclaimer. Panel and serves as point of contact on regional aquatic invasive species issues.
  • Assists with implementation of the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan, including those related to Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning, and reviews and updates of state Marine Spatial Plans.
  • Participates on the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment Click icon for EPA disclaimer. , Northeast Regional Ocean Council, and Northeastern Regional Association of Ocean Observing Systems. Click icon for EPA disclaimer. 
  • Coordinates with other federal, state, and local agencies involved in managing marine and coastal resources in New England, including habitat restoration, monitoring, governance issues, and climate change.
  • Administers grants, contracts, and interagency agreements to support ocean and coastal management programs and activities.
  • Serves as regional liaison with the Office of Oceans, Coasts, Estuaries & Beaches at EPA HQ in Washington, DC and Office of Research and Development, Atlantic Ecology Division in Narragansett, RI.
  • Participates in national meetings and conferences on ocean and coastal management to share information, maintain expertise, and coordinate activities with other federal and state agencies and non-governmental organizations.

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