Blue Water Task Force, Water Quality
September 29 2011

A New Beach Bill in the Senate

by Mara Dias

The Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act of 2011 (S. 1582) is a bipartisan supported bill introduced by Senators Lautenberg (NJ) and Kirk (IL) to re-authorize the BEACH Act.  The BEACH Act of 2000 set national standards for recreational water testing and authorized state grants to pay for beach monitoring programs. This landmark law was first championed by Surfrider Foundation a decade ago. In the past four years, multiple attempts to reauthorize the BEACH Act have been made in Congress. The House of Representatives has already approved reauthorization legislation twice now, but proponents of these bills have not been successful in securing a place on the agenda in the full Senate.  Let's hope that with a sponsor from both parties this year's bill with have more success moving through the Senate.  Senator Boxer (CA), the Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has jurisdiction over S. 1582, has also signed on as a co-sponsor.  Join Surfrider in urging your Senators to co-sponsor this bill.  Send them an email here.

The Clean Coastal Environment & Public Health Act of 2011 proposes to extend the federal BEACH grants, which are distributed to coastal states to pay for beach water testing programs, until 2015.   Unlike the previously submitted bills that were unsuccessful (more info here), this newly proposed legislation does not raise the authorized funding for BEACH grants.  The authorized funding level will remain at $30 million, hopefully taking away any budget related objections.  In reality, BEACH grant appropriations have hovered under $10 million for the last decade and are not likely to increase in the foreseeable future.

This legislation also calls on EPA to approve rapid water testing methods that produce same-day results and expands the scope of the BEACH Act to include tracking and cleaning up the sources of beach water pollution.  Improvements in public notification of water quality data and pollution incidents are also mandated, including a requirement for states to develop and maintain online, searchable, water quality databases. 

Additionally Congress has tacked on a few studies that it wants the EPA to undertake as part of this bill including a review of mercury testing protocols in the Great Lakes, research on the long-term impacts of climate change on pollution of coastal recreational waters and a study of the impacts of nutrient pollution and algal blooms on coastal recreational waters with recommendations for pollution management actions.

No companion bill has been submitted in the House as of yet, but Surfrider's Northeast Regional Manager, John Weber, participated in a press event held at the Jersey Shore back in August, where both Senator Lautenberg and Representative Pallone both announced their intent to introduce legislation.  See local press

The Great Lakes Echo published a good summary of the bill online, and a press release with a link to the text of this bill is posted on Senator Lautenberg's website