Targeted Federal Funding Needed to Improve Coastal Water

Sept. 8, 2000

A report released recently by a coalition of environmental groups calls for targeted funding by the federal government to help states reduce polluted runoff and improve coastal water quality.

The Coast Alliance, a network of more than 500 national, state and local organizations dedicated to preserving coasts and oceans, analyzed the effects of federal funding targeted at polluted runoff in its new report, "Mission Possible: State Progress Controlling Runoff Under the Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program."

Thousands of sources of runoff cause pollution that makes coastal waters unsafe for fishing, swimming and drinking, the alliance says. The sources of runoff can be farms or forestry operations or residential, commercial and industrial developments.

Focusing on five case studies, the report concludes that federal funding is helping to limit polluted runoff, but that many states need more money and better direction in using those funds.

"A relatively small amount of funding would go a long way toward ending the fish and shellfish contamination, algae blooms, 'dead zones' and beach closures that have become so common all around America's coasts," said Jacqueline Savitz, executive director of Coast Alliance.

The U.S. Congress has failed to provide sufficient funding for the nonpoint pollution program, according to the Coast Alliance. Only a few million dollars are divided among all participating states.

"Protection of our coastal resources is linked to our economy and our well being," said Representative Jim Saxton, a New Jersey Republican and author of the Coastal Communities Conservation Act. "Commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, and other industries suffer from the impacts of unchecked runoff. That is why targeted funding to control polluted runoff is so critically important, and should remain a top priority for the 106th Congress."

Poor state allocations of funds and resources also contribute to polluted runoff. Of the five states used as case studies, none received an "A" grade for their implementation of the Coastal Nonpoint Program.

Wisconsin, Maine and California each rated a "B" grade, while New Jersey got a "C". Louisiana got a "D" with the fewest enforceable mechanisms for controlling runoff.

"The state’s poor performance to date demonstrates the need to tie federal funding to state performance to ensure the limited federal funding for this program is allocated to states where it will have the greatest benefit," says the report regarding Louisiana’s program.

But limited funding itself is the No. 1 problem facing states that are trying to control polluted runoff, the report says.

"Runoff is the greatest remaining source of pollution and yet it is essentially unregulated," Savitz said. "The Coastal Nonpoint Program is our best bet for controlling it and protecting America's coasts."

(Source: Environment News Service)

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