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National Estuary Programs Reauthorization

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 12, 2014
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Environment


Mr. BISHOP of New York. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in support of H.R. 5266 to reauthorize appropriations for the National Estuary Program.

First, Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize my committee colleagues, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. LoBiondo) and the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Larsen), for introducing this legislation.

Our Nation's coasts and oceans provide a wealth of resources for the entire country, and among these areas, nowhere is more valuable than estuaries. Estuaries are bodies of water that receive both water from rivers and saltwater from the sea. This mix makes a unique environment that is extremely productive in terms of its ecosystem values.

Government studies have found that estuaries provide habitat for 75 percent of the U.S. commercial and 80 to 90 percent of the recreational fishing catches.

Perhaps the central problem in the protection and restoration of estuaries is that they ultimately lie downstream. Everything that enters the smallest stream, tributary, or headwater in a watershed eventually runs into a single outlet, impacting in some way all the biological elements of that ecosystem and all of the commerce that revolves around the estuary.

The First Congressional District of New York, which I have had the honor to represent, abuts two priority estuaries with the Environmental Protection Agency's National Estuary Program, the Peconic Bay and the Long Island Sound.

These unique waters are precious to the residents of Long Island, and their continued health and vitality provide multiple benefits to the residents of Long Island and to the economic and environmental health of the region.

I am pleased that this legislation demonstrates the willingness of this Congress to move legislation that protects our water-related environment. The Federal seed money that comes from the EPA's National Estuary Program, when combined with other State and local resources, helps to implement locally-driven solutions to local water quality challenges.

In my view, if there are limits in the success of these programs, they are closely related to the availability of adequate restoration funds.

In the 111th Congress, I was the lead sponsor of another bill, H.R. 4715, the Clean Estuaries Act of 2010, that would have also authorized the National Estuary Program, however, at higher levels than contained in the current bill.

That legislation passed the House on a bipartisan basis and by an overwhelming margin; however, the Senate failed to ever act on that bill.

While H.R. 5266 does represent a significant reduction in the authorization of appropriations for this important program, I commend the bipartisan sponsors of this legislation for ensuring that the new authorization shows some room to increase the funding of these locally-driven restoration efforts, rather than simply cutting those efforts.

Too often these days, we seem driven to cut Federal spending for programs that provide real benefit to our Nation without an awareness of the consequences of these actions.

I can only hope that in the years to come this Chamber will recognize that there are places where the Federal Government can help and should be making increased investments, such as to repair our crumbling infrastructure or to protect our fragile natural environment.

These are only some of the ongoing challenges that face this Nation, and we need a Congress that is serious about taking on the hard questions and about making the right investments, not only for our lives and livelihoods, but for those generations of Americans to come.

Mr. Speaker, again, I support the passage of H.R. 5266, and I urge my colleagues to also support this bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.