Twenty-five years after the Clean Water Act began the job of
restoring America's waterways, President Clinton and Vice President
Gore are launching a major new initiative to fulfill the promise of
that landmark law -- clean, healthy water for all Americans.
To carry out the initiative, the President's budget proposes $568
million in new resources in Fiscal Year 1999 -- a 35 percent increase
-- and a total increase of $2.3 billion over five years. The President
also is challenging Congress to join him in strengthening and
reauthorizing the Clean Water Act.
25 Years of Success - In 1972, the Potomac River was too dirty for
swimming, Lake Erie was dying and the Cuyahoga River was so polluted it
burst into flames. Over the past 25 years, since enactment of the
Clean Water Act, America has made significant strides in cleaning up
our rivers, lakes and coastal waters:
Doubling the number of waterways safe for fishing and swimming;
Reducing industrial discharges by billions of pounds a year;
More than doubling the number of Americans served by adequate
Reducing annual wetland losses by roughly 75 percent;
Reducing soil erosion from cropland by more than a third.
The Challenges Ahead - Despite tremendous progress in controlling
pollution from factories and sewage plants, runoff from farms, city
streets and other sources continues to degrade our water. Too many of
our rivers, lakes and coastal areas remain in trouble:
Forty percent of the nation's surveyed waterways are still too
polluted for fishing and swimming;
Nearly 2,200 health advisories were issued in 1996 warning
against consumption of contaminated fish.
Beaches were closed or warnings issued more than 2,500 times in
1996 because of contaminated waters.
Excess runoff of pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorous
contributes to algal blooms, outbreaks of harmful organisms like
Pfiesteria and a 6,000-square-mile hypoxic (oxygen-starved zone)
in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Clean Water Action Plan:
Restoring and Protecting America's Waters
On October 18, 1997, the 25th anniversary of the Clean Water Act,
Vice President Gore directed the Environmental Protection Agency and
the Department of Agriculture to work with other agencies and the
public to prepare an aggressive plan outlining the next generation of
clean water protection. The Action Plan, announced today by President
Clinton, will protect public health and restore our precious waterways
by setting strong goals and providing states, communities and farmers
the tools and resources to meet them. It charts a new course
emphasizing collaborative strategies built around watersheds and the
communities they sustain. The plan calls for more than 100 major new
actions to restore and protect water resources, including:
Protecting Public Health
A national survey of contaminants in fish and shellfish by 2000;
stronger efforts to make sure the public is warned of potential health
New water quality standards to ensure that beaches are safe; a new
Internet database listing beach closings, advisories and areas that are
Increased enforcement and assistance to states to control
discharges contaminating fish and shellfish, beaches and drinking water
Controlling Polluted Runoff
More than $120 million in new assistance to states and tribes to
curb polluted runoff and to encourage the adoption of enforceable state
and tribal controls.
Numeric criteria for nutrients (i.e., nitrogen and phosphorous) in
water bodies by 2000 and initiation of standards to enforce them if
states do not.
A new strategy to control runoff from cattle, poultry and pig
farms (animal feeding operations) with a goal of issuing discharge
permits to the largest by 2005.
Incentives for Private Land Stewardship
Increased incentives and more than $100 million in new resources
to help farmers control polluted runoff, create 2 million miles of
buffer zones adjacent to waterways, and develop pollution prevention
plans covering more than 35 million acres, by 2002.
Assistance to states in developing federal-state partnerships
under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program to protect water
quality and habitat on private lands.
Assessment of potential tax incentives to encourage conservation
of critical private lands.
New Resources for Watersheds
Joint efforts with states and tribes to set watershed restoration
priorities and identify watersheds not meeting clean water goals.
Expanded funding to support implementation of pollution controls
and other measures identified in Watershed Restoration Action
Strategies developed by states in collaboration with local communities
Grants and technical assistance to support local organizations
promoting watershed partnerships.
Restoring and Protecting Wetlands
A coordinated strategy to achieve a net increase of 100,000
wetland acres a year by 2005, including a 50 percent increase in
wetlands restored and enhanced by the Corps of Engineers.
Emphasis on wetland restoration as a remedy for Clean Water Act
An interagency system to more accurately track wetland loss,
restoration and creation.
Protecting Coastal Waters
A coordinated federal response system to support state and local
efforts during major events such as harmful algae blooms and Pfiesteria
Amendment of Fisheries Management Plans to identify essential fish
habitat and options for minimizing adverse effects of state and federal
Approval of enforceable state plans to reduce polluted runoff in
coastal areas by December 1999.
Expanding Citizens' Right to Know
New Internet-based systems to provide information on the health of
aquatic systems in more than 2,000 watersheds nationwide and on
watershed programs and services.
Standardized monitoring and reporting by point source dischargers
to support watershed planning.
A national report identifying critical gaps in the monitoring and
assessment of sources and impacts of polluted runoff.
Enhanced Federal Stewardship
A Unified Federal Policy to strengthen protection of water quality
and the health of aquatic ecosystems on federal lands.
Relocation and improved water quality protection for 2,000 miles
of roads and trails a year through 2005; removal or decommissioning of
5,000 miles a year by 2002.
An accelerated program to improve or restore 25,000 miles of
stream corridor by 2005.
Immediate Steps Toward Long-Term Goals
As the President presents his long-term vision for restoring
America's waters, the Administration today also is announcing two
immediate steps to carry out the Action Plan:
A New Partnership for Agricultural Stewardship
The Department of Agriculture is announcing a new agreement with
the state of Minnesota that will provide over $200 million to promote
buffer strips, easements and other conservation measures on
agricultural lands. Maryland was the first state to enter into such
an agreement, and proposals for similar agreements with other states
Cleaner Water Through Science
Secretary Glickman also is announcing the discovery by Department
of Agriculture researchers of a new corn variety that, when used as
animal feed, can significantly reduce phosphorous levels in
agricultural runoff. Seed companies expect to market the new variety
for the 2000 growing season.