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Release Date: 7/31/2000
Contact Information: Contact: NOAA, Bill Zahner/Connie Barclay, 301-713-3066 EPA, Randy Wittorp, 415-744-1589

First program approved in U.S.; State awarded $10.6 million to clean up coastal waters

[Released jointly by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]                                          

     SAN FRANCISCO -- California has received the final federal seal of approval on a state polluted runoff control program according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the two federal agencies responsible for reviewing the program.

     NOAA and the EPA announced their final approval of California's Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program under the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990 (CZARA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) at a signing ceremony today in Santa Monica, California. California's program is the first in the country to receive full federal approval as a joint nonpoint source program.

     "California has demonstrated resolution and leadership in meeting the requirements and goals of the coastal nonpoint program through its own state laws, programs and inter-agency cooperation," said Dr. D. James Baker, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

        "We've come a long way together, cleaning up treatment plants and industry, but our waters are still not clean," said Felicia Marcus, the EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest.  "Now's the time to focus on the millions of small sources that add up to serious water quality problems from San Diego to Eureka.  We commend California for taking responsibility to address what is now the leading cause of water pollution through this program and the funding they have committed to improving the program."

     EPA also awarded $10.6 million to the State of California to support implementation of the program.  About 50 percent of these funds support community-based watershed protection projects. A significant portion of the money will be used for completing or implementing coastal runoff programs.  Through implementation of this program, California will be able to better provide people with clean coastal waters for both commerce and recreation.    

     Polluted runoff is the leading cause of water quality problems  in California.  According to the EPA, 54 percent of California's impaired waterways are polluted by runoff.   Such water pollution has resulted in 65 percent of California's rivers and streams assessed in the 1998 National Water Quality Inventory being rated as either fair or poor in supporting aquatic life.  And in 1998, California experienced at least 5,285 beach days affected by closures and advisories due to poor water quality.

    Polluted runoff, also known as non-point source pollution, is a problem throughout the nation,  and especially in watersheds that feed into sensitive coastal environments.  Polluted run-off is caused by rainfall picking-up pollutants over the surface of the land, finally depositing them into   coastal waters, lakes, rivers, and even underground drinking water aquifers. Sources of polluted runoff include urban construction, streets and highways, septic tanks, logging and agricultural activities.
     Polluted run-off is a prime suspect in contributing to conditions that have led to harmful algal blooms around the nation.  In a recent NOAA study of our nation's estuaries, algal production was highly affected by human-related sources of pollution in 82 percent of the estuaries studied.  Experts believe that algal production could worsen in two-thirds of the estuaries studied during the next 20 years.  The coastal population is expected to increase by more that 10 percent during the same time.  

     Beach closures are another national problem attributable to nonpoint source pollution.  During 1998, at U.S. beaches, there were over 10,012 days of closings and advisories due to poor water quality caused, in part, by polluted runoff.  Closings and advisories can have a significant economic impact.  Coastal tourism, attributable in part to clean beaches, generates substantial revenues for state and local governments.  85 percent of tourism dollars in the U.S. are received in coastal states.
     NOAA's National Ocean Service administers the program as part of the national Coastal Zone Management program. The program is a unique and voluntary partnership of federal and coastal state and territorial governments.  The partners encourage a balance between land and water uses in coastal zones and conservation of fragile coastal resources.

     More information on the CZMA and the coastal state non-point pollution control program is available from NOAA at:  and from the EPA
at: .