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Goal - Sound Science -Monitoring

Ecosystems Research - Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) Bioassessment

Agency Problem

EPA’s Office of Water is responsible for reporting on the condition of the Nation's waters and the relative importance of stressors impacting them. The Clean Water Act requires, under section 305(b), that the States report to EPA and that EPA report these findings to Congress. The Office of Water has provided goals that also require the ability to report on the extent to which all waters in the Nation support their designated uses. Over the past 30 years, EPA has repeatedly been criticized for producing reports that the Agency knows do not reflect the condition of our nation's waters. The monitoring that provides this information is collected by the States, reported to EPA and then summarized for Congress. The Agency problem is that EPA has failed to provide the tools and the guidance that would allow the States to monitor the condition of all their waters in such a way that EPA can aggregate this information into a defensible description of all the Nation's waters. EMAP was established as a research program within ORD to fill this void.

Science Problem

The project EMAP at WED has the responsibility for developing the tools necessary for the States to monitor and assess all fresh waters of the State. Other parts of ORD have this responsibility for estuarine and coastal systems. In order to monitor and assess all waters, 3 sets of tools are necessary: biological indicators of condition, survey designs and indicators of anthropogenic stresses. The major science questions are:

1. What are effective indices of biological quality in freshwater systems and what reference are they compare against?

2. What survey design will allow inference from the sample of surface waters to all surface waters in a State or Region?

3. What are the primary indicators of anthropogenic stress that can be used in a monitoring effort?

4. How are these three sets of tools brought together to produce an effective assessment of condition and relative ranking of stressors?


EMAP Western Coastal Pilot

Project Leader: Walter G. Nelson, 541-867-4041, Email - nelson.walt@epa.gov

Principal Investigator:

The EMAP Western Coastal Pilot Project is a five year program designed to 1) assess the condition of the coastal ecosystems of the West Coast, and 2) build the scientific basis and increase the ability of local, state and tribal agencies to monitor the status of Western coastal ecosystems. Sampling of small coastal estuaries of Washington, Oregon and California began in 1999, with sampling of the larger systems (Puget Sound, Columbia River, San Francisco Bay) conducted in 2000. Two intensification studies that were integrated into the overall design were also conducted in 1999. Possible impacts of a large dairy industry were assessed in Tillamook Bay, Oregon. Condition of Northern California small, river dominated estuaries was compared between TMDL versus non-TMDL listed systems.

Hawaii will assess coastal condition along the main island chain in 2001, and will conduct an intensification study of urbanized estuaries of Oahu in 2002. Alaska will conduct a survey of the coast line of south central Alaska in 2002, with intensification studies in Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound. Washington, Oregon and California will sample tidal wetland habitats in 2002. The Western Coastal Pilot will complete field work with a survey of benthic condition of near coastal waters on the continental shelf in 2003.

The 1999 Western EMAP results are being used to assess the use of nonindigenous species as a condition indicator for the soft-bottom benthic communities of west coast estuaries. The biogeographic pattern of invasion and the relationship of invasion to estuary size has been examined. The "small" West Coast estuaries are moderately invaded compared to the highly invaded San Francisco estuary. Based on percent abundance and percent species, Oregon and Washington estuaries have more invaders than California systems. Estuaries less than 1 km2 were the least invaded size class in Oregon and Washington, but were equally or more invaded than the larger size classes in California. These results the utility of incorporating probabilistic sampling into the national monitoring for invasive species that is called for by the National Invasive Species Management Plan.

EMAP West Streams and Rivers Project

Project Leader: John Stoddard, 541-754-4441, Email – Stoddard.john@epa.gov

Principal Investigators:

The EMAP West Streams and Rivers project is a five year program designed to 1) assess the condition of the flowing waters of the western United States, and 2) build the scientific basis and increase the ability of local, state and tribal agencies to monitor the status and trends of western stream and river ecosystems. Sampling of streams and rivers began throughout the twelve western States (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, and Washington) in 2000. The study was designed to provide State, Regional and West-wide scales of spatial resolution.  Three intensification studies that were integrated into the overall design were also begun in 2000, coastal streams/rivers in southern and northern California, streams/rivers in John Day/ Deschutes regions, and Upper Missouri River.

The study is collecting fish, benthos, periphyton, physical habitat, water chemistry, watershed characteristics at sites across the west using a probability-based sample survey design.  State and contract crews will collect the samples.  State and EPA staff will be responsible for analyzing the data and developing assessments of the biological quality of flowing waters as well as a relative ranking of the stressors impacting aquatic biota.

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