U.S. Representative Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) today applauded House passage of H.R. 4715, the "Clean Estuaries Act," which he co-authored with Representative Tim Bishop (NY-01) to reauthorize the National Estuary Program for an additional five (5) years. Established in 1987, the federal program's goal is to improve the quality of estuaries by developing plans for attaining or maintaining water quality. This includes protection of public water supplies and the protection of indigenous population of shellfish, fish, and wildlife. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the nation's estuaries provide habitat for 75 percent of the U.S. commercial fish catch and 80-90 percent of the recreational fish catch.
"This legislation is of vital importance to my South Jersey district and its residents, who have an economical and environmental stake in protecting our local Delaware Estuary," said LoBiondo, a member of the House Water Resources Subcommittee. "I applaud my colleagues in the House for recognizing the vital importance of the National Estuary Program, its impact on every state and the economic value of our estuaries. Likewise, I appreciate Mr. Bishop's partnership once again on another critical bill to keep our waters clean for future generations."
Located in South Jersey, the Delaware estuary is home to the second largest concentration of migrating shorebirds in the western hemisphere, as well as dozens of protected species, and the largest population of horseshoe crabs in the world. The estuary is also home to over 5 million people and some of the largest refineries and chemical manufacturers on the East Coast.
LoBiondo has worked closely with the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, the group charged with improving the water quality of the estuary. The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary is one of 28 designated National Estuary Program organizations.
"Together with our partners we have restored over 20,000 acres in just the last four years, and have helped thousands of local organizations and individuals to be better stewards of the Delaware Estuary's natural resources. The Clean Estuaries Act will significantly strengthen a proven, authorized program that is measurably improving the economic and ecological resiliency of our coastal communities," said Jennifer Adkins, Executive Director of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary Inc.
"The Partnership has done a tremendous job to not only protect and enhance the Delaware estuary, but also to raise public awareness about the need to act responsibly and care for this unique ecosystem," continued LoBiondo. "It has been an honor to work closely with them and I look forward to continue our efforts in the years to come."
In addition to reauthorizing the program for five years, LoBiondo's bipartisan legislation would allow the National Estuary Program to expand protections to other watersheds and provide greater accountability over how taxpayer money is spent. The bill would improve transparency by establishing periodic reviews of management plans and by requiring partners to demonstrate results. Partners that fall out of compliance with their plans will lose federal grant funds, thus ensuring taxpayers get a strong return on their investment.
The full House approved of LoBiondo's legislation 278 to 128. The legislation now moves on to the Senate for its consideration.