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Bipartisan Bill Focuses National Estuary Program Funding to Meet Urgent Ecological Challenges

Washington, January 27, 2015 - U.S. Representatives Bill Posey and Patrick Murphy reintroduced their bipartisan legislation today to prioritize funding within the National Estuary Program (NEP) to meet high priority needs across the nation’s 28 national estuaries. The Estuary Urgent Needs Priority Program Act prioritizes NEP funding to guarantee estuary base grant funding while also reserving funds within the NEP account for estuaries experiencing urgent ecological challenges.

“Many of the nation’s estuaries are experiencing urgent and challenging ecological problems, including our own Indian River Lagoon,” said Rep. Posey. “Our bill simply requires that the EPA refocus existing funding to make sure that the money designated by Congress for estuaries is actually spent to address estuary needs.”

“With the frustrating and disappointing situation of ongoing discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River, this is yet another call to action for both short-term and long-term solutions to help our local waterways. This bill is a simple, bipartisan solution to bring more funding opportunities to our area to help address the ongoing crisis taking place in the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon,” said Rep. Murphy. “With the health of our economy directly tied to our waterways, this measure is well-deserving of the overwhelming bipartisan support it received in the House in the last Congress, and I hope that both chambers will act quickly on this common-sense bill to provide much-needed assistance to our Indian River Lagoon.”

Within amounts authorized for the NEPs, the legislation directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide awards in addition to estuary base grants, for estuaries that are experiencing urgent and challenging ecological problems including Sea grass loss, reoccurring harmful algal blooms and invasive exotic species or jellyfish proliferation. These awards would be provided on a competitive basis and would be funded through funds already authorized for the NEP program and would not adversely impact the amount of base grants for estuaries.

In FY 2014 the program was funded at $25.1 million with each of the nation’s 28 estuaries receiving a base grant of $538,000. This year the program will receive $26.7 million with approximately $16.8 million going directly to the estuaries leaving a large sum of money available to be directed to other critical needs on the ground.

Last year the Estuary Urgent Needs Priority Program Act was incorporated into the National Estuary Program Reauthorization Act (H.R. 5266) which passed the House in November but no action was taken by the Senate. The National Estuary Program was created in the 1987 Clean Water Act Amendments and is run through the EPA to protect and restore water quality and ensure ecological health of estuaries of national significance. There are 28 “estuaries of national significance” that span multiple states and Congressional Districts all over the country. Each estuary uses local input and local priorities to create a management plan that addresses the issues of water quality and ecological health.

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