EPA New England Topics
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; coordinating state and local beach 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; the Northeast Regional Ocean Council; the Gulf of Maine Council; state ocean planning efforts; climate change; various monitoring programs such as the National Coastal Assessment and Northeastern Regional Association of Ocean Observing Systems; and habitat restoration efforts through Coastal America with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 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. In addition, five of the Region’s NEPs are part of EPA’s Climate Ready Estuary Program, for which they are receiving targeted assistance for climate change adaptation projects.
- 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 areas; burial-at-sea; and the ocean disposal of vessels, fish waste, and other material.
- Administers BEACH Act grants to states for coastal beach programs; implements the regional beach initiative to protect public health at our beaches; and helps communities to reduce sources of pollution at beaches.
- Prepares Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) for coastal activities proposed by EPA (e.g., dredged material disposal, NPDES new sources) 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.
- 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 nutrient criteria.
- Conducts water and sediment quality monitoring and other ocean surveys, and public education programs, on board EPA's Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold.
- Manages EPA Region 1 Dive Unit and conducts SCUBA diving operations to monitor and assess water and habitat quality.
- Assists with development of National Ocean Policy recommendations (including those related to Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning) and review of state Marine Spatial Plans.
- Participates on the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, Northeast Regional Ocean Council, and Northeast Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems.
- 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 Water, Oceans and Coastal Protection Division at EPA HQ in Washington, DC and Office of Research and Development, Atlantic Ecology Division in Narragansett, RI.