Thursday, November 13, 2014

House Passes Bill to Reauthorize National Estuaries Programs

Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Complex
On Wednesday, the U.S. House passed H.R. 2566, a bill "to reauthorize the National Estuary Programs,"  the U.S. EPA's suite of individual programs designed to improve the quality of estuaries of national importance, including the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary complex: an estuary system that encompasses 4.2 million acres of wetlands, ridges, forests, farmlands and communities (including New Orleans and Baton Rouge) between the Mississippi River and Atchafalaya River in southeastern Louisiana. 

The bill was passed on a voice vote. If passed by the Senate, H.R. 5266 would reduce funding for the Programs from $35 million to $27 million annually through fiscal year 2018. The bill would also limit the funding that can be spent on overhead costs, and specifies specific issues to be addressed through the Program's competitive grant provision, including low dissolved oxygen conditions and related nutrient management, flooding, harmful algal blooms and invasive species. The Senate could possibly take up H.R. 5266 as passed by the House, or it could vote on a related "Clean Estuaries Act of 2014," S. 2042, introduced in February. That Senate reauthorization bill would maintain funding at its current level, and make some targeted changes to the Programs, mostly centering on the management of the initiative.

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