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Cleaner Water

The Bush Administration has demonstrated a strong commitment to cleaning and protecting our water resources. On Earth Day 2004, President Bush announced a new strategy to move beyond the old standing policy of "no net loss" of wetlands to increasing wetlands overall annually. The EPA has created a Water Quality Trading Policy, boosting efforts to clean up rivers, streams, and lakes. In 2003, the EPA announced $15 million in grants to support the Bush Administration"s initiative to preserve, protect, and restore waterways across the country. The Interior Department"s Water 2025 Initiative calls for focusing Federal financial and technical resources in key western watersheds and on critical research and development to help predict, prevent, and alleviate water supply conflicts. From expanding and protecting wetlands to securing our water supplies to preventing water crises, the Bush Administration is implementing long-needed policies with the goal of providing clean, safe water to the American people.

Expanding and Protecting America's Wetlands

"Our national commitment to wetlands is showing good progress.really better than good progress when you think about the fact that we were losing a half-a-million acres a year not so many years ago. . So today, I'm committing our government to a new policy. We will move beyond the no net loss of wetlands in America to having an overall increase of Americans' wetlands over the next five years. We can achieve this goal. It is a realistic goal. To do so, we will work to restore and to improve and to protect at least three million acres of wetlands over the next five years."

President George W. Bush
Announcement of Wetlands Initiative on Earth Day
Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve
Wells, Maine, April 22, 2004

Photo On Earth Day 2004, the President announced an aggressive new national goal - moving beyond a policy of "no net loss" of wetlands to achieve an overall increase of wetlands in America each year. To help meet that goal, the President said the Federal government will create, improve, and protect at least three million wetland acres over five years in order to increase overall wetland acres and quality. To meet this goal, the President has called on Congress to pass his FY 2005 budget request, which includes $4.4 billion for conservation programs that include funding for wetlands - an increase of $1.5 billion (53 percent) over FY 2001. The FY 2005 budget proposes to spend $349 million on our two key wetlands programs - the Wetlands Reserve Program and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act Grants Program - which is an increase of more than 50 percent over FY 2001 for those two programs. New figures released in April 2004 by USDA show that, for the first time in history, America has reversed the annual net loss of wetlands on our farms. The United States was losing almost 500,000 acres of wetlands per year 30 years ago, but today, that loss is down dramatically.

The Administration has taken several other important actions to protect and restore the Nation's wetlands:

  • The 2002 Farm Bill will provide more than $40 billion over the next decade for conservation on farms--a doubling in funding for conservation programs, including those programs that will protect millions of acres of wetlands and other aquatic resources.
  • The Administration issued an EPA-Army Corps of Engineers rule to protect America.s wetlands by more effectively regulating mechanized earth-moving activities in wetlands. This rule (the Tulloch Rule) helps prevent loss of wetlands by ensuring that developers understand when they are required to obtain permits for activities affecting wetlands. This action will help stem the loss of thousands of acres of wetlands annually.
  • In December 2002, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, in conjunction with the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and Transportation, strengthened the commitment to preserve our Nation's wetlands with the release of a comprehensive National Wetlands Mitigation Action Plan and improved guidance to ensure effective, scientifically-based restoration of wetlands impacted by development activities. The multi-agency action plan will help advance technical capabilities for wetlands restoration and protection, as well as clarify policies to ensure ecologically sound, predictable, and enforceable wetlands restoration completed as part of Clean Water Act and related programs. This action was the result of extensive multi-agency collaboration. The action plan consists of 17 items that the agencies will undertake to improve the effectiveness of restoring wetlands that are impacted or lost to activities governed by clean water laws. Completing the actions in the plan will enable the agencies and the public to make better decisions regarding where and how to restore, enhance, and protect wetlands; improve their ability to measure and evaluate the success of mitigation efforts; and expand the public's access to information on these wetland restoration activities.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers issued new nationwide permits, which are general permits that authorize categories of activities that have minimal impacts on aquatic environments, such as certain residential, commercial, and agricultural activities affecting ½ acre or less of wetlands. The new permits, which replace permits that expired in February 2002, support a "no net loss" goal for wetlands and, for the first time, call for documented compliance with that goal at the Corps district level. The permits also strengthen environmental protections for mining-related activities by ensuring full mitigation of impacts and case-by-case review to ensure that impacts are minimal. They also provide Corps districts with more authority to ensure that mitigation projects are tailored to the specific needs of local watersheds.
  • The Corps and EPA collaborated to finalize a proposal of the previous Administration to clarify the definition of "fill material" used by the Corps. section 404 regulatory program, adopting the approach to this issue that EPA has used for 25 years. This eliminated regulatory inconsistency and uncertainty and strengthened the environmental regulations governing mountaintop mining. Although this type of mining has been common for more than 20 years, the regulations governing it were unclear about which agency should regulate valley fills. Rules were proposed in 2000 to address this ambiguity and the Bush Administration has completed and finalized the rules. The rules also clarify for the first time that trash and garbage may not be disposed of in our Nation's waters as "fill" material.
  • In 2001, mitigation of wetlands by the Department of Transportation's Federal-aid highway program created a net increase of over 2,000 acres of habitat. This program achieved an average compensatory replacement of 2.1 acres for each acre of wetland impacted.
  • In coordination with four private foundations and the State of California, the Bush Administration agreed in May 2002 to purchase 16,500 acres of wetlands that will become part of the largest tidal restoration program ever undertaken on the West Coast. The restoration program will directly benefit thousands of species of fish and wildlife, including endangered species such as the California Clapper Rail, the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, the California Least Tern, and the Western Snowy Plover. Approximately 9,600 acres of the acquired property will become part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded more than $47.2 million in grants to 19 States to conserve, restore and protect coastal wetlands. States awarded grants for FY 2003 under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program were Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The grants, which will help fund 61 projects, will be supplemented by $132 million from State and private partners.


Cleaning Up America's Waters

Last year, EPA issued a Water Quality Trading Policy to increase the success of cleaning up rivers, streams, and lakes. The goal is to speed clean-up efforts while saving the public hundreds of millions of dollars by advancing more effective, efficient partnerships to clean up and protect America's watersheds. The policy keeps existing controls and safeguards in place while offering greater flexibility and incentives to states, tribes, and companies to comply with - and exceed - requirements of the Clean Water Act. Water quality trading uses economic incentives to improve water quality. It allows one source to meet its regulatory obligations by using pollutant reductions created by another source that has lower pollution control costs. but the source generating the credits must first satisfy all of its own pollution control requirements and can only trade excess reductions-those that go beyond what it is otherwise required to do. Efficiency is increased and costs are decreased, and there is also accelerated progress in achieving clean-up goals. Under the policy, industrial and municipal facilities must first meet regulatory technology control requirements and then can use pollution reduction credits to make further progress toward water quality goals.


Improving Water Quality: TMDLs

Since 2001, States and EPA established or approved more than 8,000 Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). In 2001 and 2002, States and EPA developed TMDLs for waters that are not meeting water quality standards. In FY 2005, EPA will work with States, interstate agencies, and tribes to foster a watershed approach as the guiding principle of clean water programs. Application of the watershed approach at the local level allows decision-makers to assess most critical problems, better deploy resources and determine the cumulative impact of activities. EPA is encouraging states to develop comprehensive state watershed plans, a significant tool toward that end. Where water quality standards are not being attained, states will need to establish TMDLs. Most TMDLs are clustered within a watershed Establishing TMDLs on a watershed basis reduces costs and fosters innovations, such as water quality trading and watershed-based permitting.


Cleaning the Great Lakes and Controlling Invasive Species

Keeping the Administration's commitment to the health and well-being of the Great Lakes basin, the President's FY 2005 budget provides an unprecedented $45 million for Great Lakes contaminated sediment clean-up, nearly a five-fold increase over previous funding levels that will allow EPA, with Great Lakes community partners, to start remedial action at six sites. The budget also seeks additional funding for research into the control of invasive species.

In May 2004, President Bush signed an Executive Order establishing the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, which, under EPA's leadership, brings together ten Agency and Cabinet officers to provide strategic direction on Federal Great Lakes policy, priorities and programs.

In 2002, EPA announced a plan to identify the major basin-wide environmental issues in the Great Lakes, establishing common goals with Federal, State, and tribal agencies, reducing concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in lake trout and walleye by 25 percent in five years, and, by the end of the decade, 90 percent of Great Lakes beaches will be safe enough to be open 95 percent of the season. Between 1998 and 2003, under existing authorities, EPA and partners remediated 100,000 to 400,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment per year.


Cleaning Up the Hudson River

EPA signed a record of decision for the Hudson River requiring General Electric to undertake a major cleanup of portions of the Hudson River contaminated by PCBs. This cleanup is designed to eliminate more than 150,000 pounds of PCBs from the river. PCBs bio-accumulate in fish and may pose cancer threats to people who eat fish caught in the river.


Reducing Water Pollution from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

President Bush supported a final rule that protects surface water from animal waste generated by over 15,000 concentrated animal feeding operations. The rule requires, for the first time, control of runoff resulting from the spreading of manure on fields. The amount of phosphorus released into America's environment is expected to be reduced by about 56 million pounds annually, while annual nitrogen releases are expected to be slashed by more than 100 million pounds. These projections represent a 25 percent reduction over current levels. The annual release of over 2 billion pounds of sediments and about one million pounds of metals is also expected to be averted, helping to protect both the health of the American people and the environment. In 2002, 4,500 operations were covered by permits. As a result of the new rule, EPA expects that up to 11,000 additional facilities will be required to apply for permits by 2006.


Setting Standards for Industrial Sources

Three new rules will substantially reduce pollutant discharges from industrial facilities, improve water quality, and protect both human health and aquatic life by setting improved standards:

  • Coal Mining: New initiatives protect rivers. Wastewater standards will clean up 5,000 miles of impaired streams in Appalachia and improve watersheds in the arid West by restoring land at active mines to pre-mining conditions.
  • Iron and Steel Manufacturing: New rules update and revise wastewater standards from the 1980s to improve environmental protection and reflect technological changes in manufacturing processes. The improved standards reduce pollutant discharges by 1.4 million pounds, including toxic pollutants that increase cancer risk.
  • Water Intake Structures: New standards for location, design, construction, and capacity of cooling water intake structures will protect fish, shellfish, and other aquatic life from being killed or injured by cooling water intake structures, common at large power plants. The standards encourage innovation and allow facilities to tailor protection measures to local circumstances.


Recognizing Clean Water Partners

EPA created "Clean Water Partners" in April 2002 to recognize local governments that are going beyond the mandated water regulatory requirements to encourage and achieve greater water protection.


Community-Based Watershed Restoration Partnerships

In cooperation with local communities, the USDA's Forest Service is working to restore watersheds, using public and private resources and time donated by individuals and groups. Sixteen partnerships, located in 25 states and the District of Columbia, are demonstrating innovative ways to improve watersheds, water quality, forests, rangeland, and endangered species habitats on a river-basin scale. These multi-year projects are developed in partnership with other Federal agencies, State, local, and tribal governments, communities, and private landowners. These restoration activities have improved water quality, increased fish populations, promoted healthier wetlands and forests, reduced insect infestations and disease, protected stream banks, improved wildlife habitat, and controlled the spread of invasive plants. In the last three years, the Forest Service has invested over $68 million, and its partners have contributed more than $60 million.


Restoring the Klamath Basin

The Klamath River Basin, which straddles the Oregon and California border, is a source of water to farmers, tribes, endangered fish, and National Wildlife Refuges. In 2001, many farmers went bankrupt when they had their water supplies cut off in response to drought and endangered species needs, while environmental groups filed lawsuits to prevent the Administration from turning water supplies back on. President Bush formed a working group, led by Commerce Secretary Evans, Interior Secretary Norton, Agriculture Secretary Veneman, and CEQ Chairman Connaughton, to pursue a cooperative approach that has led to beneficial actions and may serve as a blueprint elsewhere in the West. This year the Reclamation Project farmers have water, several multi-million dollar fish habitat restoration projects are underway, and a $16 million state-of-the-art fish screen is keeping fish out of irrigation canals. In March 2003, the Natural Resources Conservation Service made an early release of $7 million in financial and technical assistance to the basin's producers to conserve water and improve stream quality. Farmers have implemented key irrigation management projects that save water and have planted 41,000 acres of cover crops on land that drought had left vulnerable to erosion. So far, commitments to the Klamath River Basin have resulted in:

  • $50 million in funding to increase water quality and quantity conservation in the Klamath River Basin through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program;
  • More than $16 million to complete the A-Canal fish screen to prevent endangered sucker from entering irrigation canals;
  • Plans for conservation systems on 19,000 acres;
  • Improved irrigation water management practices on 14,500 acres;
  • Improved water management practices on 3,000 acres of upland;
  • Creation, restoration, or enhancement of 1,600 acres of wetlands and restoration of 5,200 acres of wildlife habitat.

Additional initiatives in the Klamath Basin include:

  • The Bureau of Reclamation is providing $5.6 million for a Pilot Water Bank program this year to pay irrigators to fallow some of their cropland or use groundwater instead of project water to irrigate crops.
  • In 2004, the Department of the Interior is also funding improvements in the quality and quantity of flows into Agency Lake through a partnership with the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust to lease water rights from approximately 11,000 acres of irrigated pasture, which provides water for instream flows and Agency Lake.
  • Reclamation is providing funding to the Yurok Tribe for a study of adult spring run chinook salmon and other fishery-related investigations, and funding to the Klamath Tribes for monitoring long-term nutrient loading in Upper Klamath Lake to benefit Endangered Species Act-listed species.
  • Funds in the President's FY 2005 budget will pay to remove Chiloquin Dam, a dam on the Sprague River that substantially blocks access to about 70 miles of spawning habitat for endangered fish from Upper Klamath Lake.
  • Reclamation expects to complete a new fish ladder on the west side of Link River Dam in 2005. The ladder, now under construction, will replace an existing fish ladder that works poorly and will improve fish passage, especially for endangered fish, from the Klamath River system to Upper Klamath Lake. The President's FY 2005 budget provides more than $100 million for the Klamath Basin.


Rural Water Projects

The Bureau of Reclamation continues to develop rural water projects in areas of the West where groundwater is of insufficient quantity and poor quality. Many of these projects are taking place on Indian Reservations in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. USDA's water and wastewater loan and grant program is used to develop water systems, including storm drainage and solid waste disposal facilities, in rural areas with 10,000 or fewer residents. Over the last three years, the Rural Utilities Service provided over $4.8 billion in assistance for this purpose, funding over 3,897 community infrastructure projects and benefiting approximately 1.3 million rural residents per year.


Restoring the Everglades

In January 2002, President Bush and Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed an agreement to ensure that adequate water supplies are available to support the 30-year Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which was authorized in December 2000. This agreement further bolsters the Bush Administration's strong support for the $7.8 billion CERP, which is the most comprehensive and ambitious ecosystem restoration project ever undertaken in the United States. The CERP includes more than 68 projects, and the costs of the restoration and future operating expenses will be shared equally by Federal and non-federal interests, including the State of Florida. The President's FY 2005 budget includes $231 million for Everglades restoration. The programmatic regulations that ensure CERP goals and objectives are achieved were issued in December 2003. In addition, the Corps of Engineers is completing regulations to guide individual restoration projects and ensure, through adaptive management, that new information will be incorporated into the CERP.


Destin Dome

On May 29, 2002, President Bush directed the Secretary of the Interior to buy back leases from oil companies owning oil and gas development rights off Florida's sandy white beaches near Pensacola. The settlement for the Destin Dome Unit, a large natural gas discovery in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico approximately 30 miles south of Pensacola, cost $115 million, and eliminated the possibility of development at that site.


Protecting Marine Ecosystems

The National Park Service (NPS) has begun restoring marine ecosystems in Dry Tortugas National Park, Buck Island Reef National Monument, and Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, in close cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the State of Florida and the Territory of the Virgin Islands. New management tools, networks of marine reserves, and research natural areas were established in these parks to restore and replenish coral reefs, kelp forests, and their diverse communities of marine life. Assessments of these reserve networks are underway to evaluate and communicate their effectiveness and to allow resource managers to learn from their design. In addition, the NPS has begun an effort to thoroughly assess watershed conditions in the coastal Parks, with the goal of restoring impaired watersheds and protecting estuaries, tidal wetlands, and other sensitive aquatic systems in these parks.


Protecting Coral Reefs

Recognizing the significant social, economic, and environmental importance of healthy coral reef ecosystems, the Administration has provided strong leadership and support for the United States Coral Reef Task Force. Established in 1998, the Task Force leads and coordinates efforts to conserve coral reefs. It is co-chaired by the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce, and composed of the heads of 11 Federal agencies and governors from seven states and territories. The Task Force completed several significant efforts, including the first-ever status report on the condition of U.S. coral reef ecosystems, and a report to Congress outlining key actions needed to conserve coral reefs. During the meeting on February 27, 2003, Secretary Norton announced that regulations and General Management Plans would go forward for the new Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument (12,708 acres), and the expanded Buck Island Reef National Monument (18,135 acres). Created by Presidential Proclamations in 2001, these new marine reserves will provide full protection to coral reef ecosystems from extractive uses when implemented. The National Park Service and the government of the Virgin Islands worked closely on the interim rule and Notices of Intent for the new Monuments and Virgin Islands National Park.


National Marine Sanctuaries

Last year, the Commerce Department designated the Tortugas Ecological Reserve as the Nation's largest permanent no-take marine reserve. Located more than 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, the new reserve is part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and encompasses more than 150 square nautical miles of spectacular deepwater and corals and critical fish spawning sites. An innovative new management plan was developed for the Department of the Interior's Dry Tortugas National Park, which together with the Ecological Reserve, forms the third largest coral reef protection area in the world. The plan enhances coral protection and improves the visitor experience in the Straits of Florida.


Establishing Individual Fishing Quota Systems

The Bush Administration, in its 2004 proposal to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, included the authority to establish individual fishing quota (IFQ) systems. An IFQ is a management program that provides a quantity of fish (generally a percent share of a harvest quota) exclusively to an individual fisherman. In such a program, each participating fisherman can use his share of the quota at any time during the fishing season. The Administration's proposal on IFQs seeks to strike a balance between flexibility in developing IFQ programs and the need to observe certain constraints or protections for the common good. Encouraging market-based incentives to adjust harvest capacity in a fishery will have the effects of ending the race for fish; improving product quality, and enhancing safety at sea, while providing for greater efficiency in fishing operations and ultimately improving the livelihood of the fishermen who depend on them.


Improving Our Coastal Waters

In March 2002, EPA, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture issued the first environmental report card on the condition of our coastal waters, providing an important baseline to measure future improvement. The Bush Administration has taken steps to address coastal issues, including providing $20 million in grants in the President's budget for watershed protection. To reduce bacterial contamination in coastal waters, EPA is also issuing technical guidance to improve the design and operation of septic systems used in many coastal areas. EPA and several other agencies are participating in a new Estuary Habitat Restoration Council, focusing on restoring estuaries - a valuable coastal resource. EPA, NOAA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture are working with States and tribes to implement the Action Plan that was delivered to the Congress last year to address the "dead zone," a large oxygen-starved area in the Gulf of Mexico that threatens one of the Nation's most valuable fishing grounds.


Clean Beaches Strategy

In April 2004, the Bush Administration announced its commitment to further protect the water quality of the nation's beaches and to ensure compliance with the Beaches, Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act of 2000. The Administration's Clean Beaches strategy includes a Clean Beaches Plan, grants to states for beach monitoring and notification programs, technical guidance, scientific studies and Federal water quality standards to backstop state and territorial efforts where necessary.

The BEACH Act of 2000 requires coastal states, including those bordering the Great Lakes, to adopt up-to-date pathogen criteria by April 10, 2004 to protect beach goers from harmful bacteria. The Act provides that, if a state fails to meet this deadline, EPA must promptly propose Federal standards to protect that state's beaches. To date, only 11 of the 35 affected states and territories have adopted up-to-date criteria for pathogens. EPA proposed revised standards for pathogens for the states and territories that have not yet done so.

In May 2004, EPA began awarding grants to states and territories to augment their monitoring of beaches and reporting to the public when the beaches are closed for health reasons. Almost $10 million in grants are available to eligible States and territories to protect public health at the Nation's beaches. The grants provide funding to monitor water quality at beaches and to notify the public of beach warnings or closings while reducing the risk of exposure to disease-causing microorganisms in the water. The grants are available to 35 eligible states and territories, and are awarded based on criteria including the length of beach season, the miles of beaches and the number of people using those beaches.


Water Conservation

The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation Water Conservation Field Service Program is using incentives to enhance water conservation activities through partnerships with water suppliers and other Federal, State, and local entities. In the past year, the Bureau of Reclamation has assisted a number of new efforts in the western states, including, for example, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) and its Xeriscape Conversion Study, the largest of its type to date in the West. The SNWA project averages water savings of 39 percent. As a direct result of the study, SNWA has now launched a valley-wide retrofit xeriscape program.


Water 2025: Preventing Crises and Conflict in the West

Water 2025: Preventing Crises and Conflict in the WestThe Department of the Interior's Water 2025 Initiative responds to the western drought by focusing Federal financial and technical resources in key western watersheds and on critical research and development to help predict, prevent, and alleviate water supply conflicts.

Water 2025 will help stretch or increase water supplies to satisfy the demands of growing populations, protect environmental needs, and strengthen regional, tribal, and local economies. It will provide added environmental benefits to many watersheds, rivers, and streams, and minimize water crises by improving the environment and addressing the effects of drought on communities. Finally, Water 2025 will provide a balanced, practical approach to water management even after the drought is over. The President's FY 2005 budget calls for an investment of $21 million for such efforts.

One Water 2025 program, the FY 2005 Challenge Grant program, helps pay for conservation improvements that will help prevent crises and conflicts over limited water resources. The program shows how leveraging the Federal investment can provide tremendous benefits: $4 million is helping to fund 19 projects that will generate almost $30 million in on-the-ground water delivery system improvements.