April 13, 2012
Contact: Ken or Kate Gooderham, ASBPA executive directors -- (239) 489-2616
Harry Simmons, ASBPA president -- (910) 200-7867
Have a plan to keep waters clean
With federal funding in danger, communities need plan to maintain water quality
Any coastal professional will tell you that a key component of a healthy beach is healthy water. With that in mind, a proposed cut in federal funding to support better water quality warrants the attention of coastal communities around the country – either to fight for the funding to survive, or to plan for a Plan B if it doesn’t.
Right now, in many places along our nation’s coast the state takes the lead in monitoring the condition of the nearshore waters, through regular testing and watching what gets dumped offshore. Many of those states rely on funds funneled through the Environmental Protection Agency as authorized by the BEACH (which stands for Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal health) Act. The act, passed in 2000, pushed states to enact standards for “coastal recreational waters” and provided the carrot of grants ($110 million since the act was put in place) to monitor those standards once in place -- and to issue advisories if targeted pathogens rise about “healthy” levels.
But the current administration budget for FY 2013 cuts the $9.9 million required to fund the monitoring grants, leaving states on their own to continue funding. In a fiscal climate that sees many states struggling to maintain essential services, the expectation is that new funding to replace the lost federal support won’t be found – or won’t be enough to maintain adequate monitoring.
At a time when EPA estimates that 3.5 million people each year are sickened by bacteria found in beach waters, it is appalling that the agency itself says that having 1 in every 28 beachgoers come down with a gastrointestinal illness is OK. This means that less emphasis on clean water is not good news for coastal communities. It’s certainly not what someone planning a day at the beach this summer wants to hear – and beach-based businesses can tell you a host of horror stories about what happened to the local economy when their beach was shut down by an “unsafe waters” advisory.
What can you do?
1) You can contact your Members of Congress and urge them to restore funding for the monitoring grants in the FY 2013 budget – assuming a budget is eventually passed (not a sure bet) and assuming that both money and consensus can be found to support it.
2) Talk to your state legislators to find a way to pick up the slack if the federal funding falls away, explaining that, say, one week of lost sales tax revenue from a closed beach might pay for a year’s worth of testing to ensure waters are clean (or to spot problems before they demand beach closures).
3) Make this a local issue, and tackle both the cause and effect. Work with coastal communities and beach business interests to show why local testing needs to be maintained even if the state or federal funds dry up. Even more important, raise the question of where the pollutants are coming from to see what you and your neighbors can do to clean up your own backyard. The solutions may not be simple, but doing nothing ensures that the problem will inevitably get worse – particularly as more people keep making the coast their destination to work, play and live.
There are a host of small steps that communities can undertake that, over time, can add up to some major improvements in stopping nearshore pollution. And, if your community has taken advantage of BEACH Act funds to monitor its waters, you might have a starting point in water quality from which to begin your research.
Good water quality is a crucial component of coastal management and keeping beaches (and the communities that rely on them) healthy. If the federal funds can be found to keep the BEACH Act alive, good; if not, coastal communities need to be ready with an alternative -- soon.
# # #
ABOUT ASBPA: Founded in 1926, the ASBPA promotes the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on ASBPA, go to www.asbpa.org, facebook or www.twitter.com/asbpa.