NOAA 99-R153
Contact: Stephanie Dorezas


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has urged members of the House Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans to approve H.R. 1775, legislation offered by Rep. Gilchrest (R-MD) that would significantly improve efforts to protect estuarine habitats that provide shelter and food for the nation's fish and shellfish supply.

"This legislation is very timely, as estuaries and fisheries along the East Coast have severely suffered from the intense flooding due to Hurricane Floyd," said Sally Yozell, NOAA's deputy assistant secretary for oceans and atmosphere. "Estuaries and coastal wetlands provide 90 percent of our recreational fish catch and 75 percent of the nation's commercial harvest. Restoration activities provided through this legislation can play a key role in how well and how quickly we can undo the damage left by hurricanes."

H.R. 1775 is designed to complement existing habitat restoration programs by improving freshwater habitat features that support anadromous fish and rebuilding native coastal wetlands and submerged aquatic vegetation.

"Estuaries provide habitat for many species, act as nature's water treatment system, provide flood control and protection against storm damage, and serve as wonderful recreation areas," said Yozell. "However, these natural systems are in trouble because they are suffering from water quality problems and habitat loss. We desperately need to restore these areas to help replace habitat that fish, marine mammals and endangered species need to survive and prosper."

The intent of H.R. 1775 is to seek out and involve coastal states, estuary and coastal managers, local governments, and constituents in a collaborative program that protects and restores estuarine habitat.

"NOAA's expert scientific capabilities and experience in estuary and coastal restoration, coupled with the science and expertise of other federal agencies, will do much to achieve the goals of H.R. 1175," Yozell said.

NOAA is engaged in a wide range of estuary habitat restoration efforts, including the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA), the Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (DARP), and the Community-Based Restoration Program (CRP). CWPPRA provides NOAA with funding and support for the restoration, protection, conservation, and enhancement of threatened wetlands in the Louisiana coastal zone. Under DARP, NOAA restores coastal and marine resources injured by oil spills and other hazardous materials. CRP allows NOAA to achieve habitat restoration by engaging local communities in local marine and estuarine habitat restoration projects.