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East Coast Oceans Public Meeting Tampa, Florida

Carol M. Browner, Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Remarks Prepared for Delivery
East Coast Oceans Public Meeting
Tampa, Florida

                         June 1, 1998

     Thank you Jim. Welcome everyone. Thank you all for joining us today. I am delighted to
be here with the other members of our panel, and to have this opportunity to listen to your
concerns. I am heartened that so many of you have taken the time from your busy schedules to be
here. It shows just how important our oceans are to Florida -- and to this nation.

     I grew up in Florida -- in Miami. I was raised on white sand and the sound of the surf. I
know, as does any Floridian, just how important the beauty and bounty of the ocean is to our
quality of life. We know that clean, safe, healthy oceans means clean, safe, healthy, and
economically vibrant communities.

     But I have been wondering: what kind of oceans will we be able to pass on to our children
and grandchildren?  Will they enjoy the fabulous quality of life and natural heritage I did when I
was growing up?

     Many parents are asking these same questions   and not just in Florida, not just in other
coastal states, but everywhere in this nation where we eat fish and depend on the many resources
our oceans provide.

     Since we passed the Clean Water Act more than a quarter century ago, we have
recognized that what we do on land has great impact on our waters. We have taken steps to
prevent billions of pounds of toxic chemicals and raw sewage from entering our waterways  
both inland and along our coasts. Today, two-thirds of our waters are now safe for swimming and
fishing compared to only a third in 1972.  

    While much as been done to reduce discharges from point sources, sewer plants, and
industrial pipes -- our job is not done. We know that too many of our rivers, lakes, and coastal
waters still contain fish unsafe to eat and water too polluted for swimming and drinking.
Contaminated , polluted urban and agricultural runoff continues to cause serious problems.

     Today, 40 percent of the coastal waters and estuaries that have been surveyed do not meet
water quality standards. Over the last decade, almost 19,000 closings and health advisories have
been issued for the nation's beaches.

     No parent should have to tell their child that the water is just too dirty to take a swim.

     Scientists by and large have linked excess phosphorus and nitrogen to last summer's
outbreak of pfiesteria -- a toxic micro-organism that killed fish in Maryland, Virginia, and North
Carolina and may have poisoned fishermen. Excess nutrients have lowered oxygen levels in waters
throughout the country and created a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico the size of Connecticut.
There are no fish, no shrimp, no vegetation.

     And in Florida, a cousin of pfisteria -- cryptoperidiminopsis -- potentially threatens the
health of the St. John's and Indian River Lagoon.

     Our nation cannot afford this -- not only for the health of our people and marine life, but
also for the health of our economy. In 1995, the U.S. fishing industry added more than $20 billion
to the economy, and coastal tourism generated more than $54 billion. One out of every six jobs is
linked to our oceans -- in tourism, fishing, shipping, research.

     Businesses and communities along our coasts have enough to worry about with the bad
weather that's been coming their way recently. They should not have to worry about beach
closings, a red tide, a high bacteria count, pathogens in the water that are keeping customers and
tourists away. Just in Maryland, the pfiesteria outbreak last summer cost the state's fishermen and
seafood industry $43 million.

     President Clinton is taking action to clean up the nation's waters. He understands that
what we do on land has a significant effect on our coastal waters. In February, he announced the
Clean Water Action Plan -- our national blueprint to clean up and restore the nation's waters --
our rivers, lakes, streams, underground acquifers, and estuaries.

     For the first time ever, at the Year of the Oceans Conference in Monterey next week, the
President and Vice President are bringing together government experts, public health officials,
scientists, environmentalists, and businesses to develop a national strategy -- using the Clean
Water Action Plan as the roadmap to restore and protect our precious ocean resources.

     This plan provides $2.3 billion to address polluted runoff from agriculture and urban areas,
as well as the loss of wetlands, and the restoration of our waterways.

     It gives Americans the tools, flexibility, and resources they need to clean up their waters
community by community and watershed by watershed, estuary by estuary.

     It builds on this administration's philosophy of bringing people together -- industry,
agriculture, environmentalists, communities, and every level of government -- to find common-sense, cost-effective solutions.

     Unfortunately, while the President is moving the nation forward on clean water, some in
Congress are holding us back. A budget resolution passed in the Senate that would slash funding
for our efforts to clean up the country's waters, as well as address most of the nation's other
urgent public health and environmental challenges.

     This action sends the wrong message to the American people. It tells them that their
government is willing to put their health and environment in jeopardy.

     This is not the time to let down our guard. We must remain vigilant. The Clinton
Administration is committed to protecting our oceans -- and we can do a better job with your

     Already we are taking steps for clean water: a strategy to control animal waste runoff
from feedlots; increased efforts to prevent and minimize harmful algal blooms and pfiesteria
outbreaks; first-ever internet access to information on beach closings and advisories across the

     In doing so, we take important steps toward protecting our oceans, Healthy estuaries --
cleaner freshwater entering the estuaries -- where so much of life begins, healthy fish, shellfish,
healthy oceans, healthy beaches and a healthy future.

      I must tell you now that I have to leave in about an hour to catch the last plane back to
Washington, but Jim will report back to me --  and I will take your comments and concerns to the
National Oceans Conference next week.

     Thank you again for your time and sharing your ideas and concerns.