Wednesday, December 17, 2008

EPA Assessment Of U.S. Coastal & Great Lakes Waters

Dec 16: According to a release from U.S. EPA, the overall condition of the nation’s coastal waters has improved slightly, based on an environmental assessment based on data that is several years old. The National Coastal Condition Report III (NCCRIII) is the third in a series of environmental assessments of U.S. coastal and Great Lakes waters. The report is a collaboration of the EPA; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS); coastal states; and the National Estuary Program. The report is based on data collected primarily in 2001 and 2002. The next National Coastal Condition Report is expected to be released in 2011 and will provide an assessment of the status of U.S. coastal waters from 2003 to 2006, along with trends in condition since the 1990s.

The report provides an assessment of America’s coastal conditions using five indicators of condition: water quality, sediment quality, benthic community condition (the health of the water’s bottom-dwelling invertebrate species), coastal habitat loss as indicated by changes in wetland area, and fish tissue contaminants. The overall condition of America’s coasts is rated as “fair,” based on the five indicators. Comparison of the condition scores shows that overall condition in U.S. coastal waters has improved slightly since the 1990s. Coastal conditions improved in the Northeast and the West, but there were slight decreases in conditions in the Southeast and Gulf of Mexico. The conditions in the Great Lakes and Puerto Rico remained the same.

The report rates the overall condition of the Great Lakes coastal areas as "fair to poor." The overall condition score is 2.2. The water quality and fish tissue contaminants indices for the Great Lakes are rated fair, the sediment quality index is rated poor, and the coastal habitat and benthic indices are rated fair to poor. The overall condition and index ratings were derived from indicator findings and the ecological condition of the St. Lawrence River, each of the five Great Lakes, and the St. Clair River-Lake St. Clair-Detroit River Ecosystem presented in the document State of the Great Lakes 2003 (Environment Canada and U.S. EPA, 2003). The next National Coastal Condition Report (NCCR IV) will present and discuss data presented in the report State of the Great Lakes 2005 (Environment Canada and U.S. EPA, 2005) to generate updated condition estimates.

Access the links to the complete 329-page report or individual sections and executive summaries (click here). Access the National Coastal Condition Reports website for background and additional information (click here). Access the 14-page Great Lakes section on the report (click here).