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The National Estuary Program Coastal Condition Report

Emaly N. Simone 1, Patricia Cunningham 1, Virginia Engle 2 and Barry Burgan 3

1 RTI International, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
2 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Development, Gulf Breeze, Florida
3 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water, Washington, DC

The National Estuary Program Coastal Condition Report (NEP CCR)—the third installment in EPA’s National Coastal Condition Report (NCCR) series—assesses the condition of the nation’s NEP estuaries using two distinct approaches. The first approach uses unbiased, quality-assured monitoring data collected nationally by EPA’s National Coastal Assessment (NCA) to determine consistent ratings (good, fair, poor) of four indices of estuarine condition (water quality, sediment quality, benthic condition, and fish tissue contaminants). The resulting index ratings are then used to calculate overall condition ratings for each NEP estuary and for six geographic regions and the nation. These NCA-based index and overall condition ratings can be compared among the NEP estuaries; however, NCA sampling for each estuary is typically conducted during a one-day period in the summer, so NCA data present only a “snapshot” of estuarine condition (i.e., conditions at the time of sampling). Based on the NCA results, the NEPs scored better than or equal to all other estuaries overall despite significant population pressures in the 1990s. The second approach uses estuary-specific monitoring data collected by the individual NEPs to support local problem-solving efforts. In contrast to the NCA approach, NEP indicator data are typically collected more frequently (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly) at a larger number of stations, thereby providing a more detailed perspective of long-term trends in estuarine condition. Because of the differences in temporal and spatial monitoring between the NEP-specific monitoring efforts, it is difficult to compare this information among estuaries or on a national basis. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses; however, considering both sets of data together forms a more comprehensive picture of overall estuarine condition than can be developed from either approach individually.

Keywords: estuary, estuarine condition, National Estuary Program, NCCR, NCA, indicators

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