The League joined organizations on a letter to the U.S. Senate asking for an increase in funding of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Nonpoint Source Management Program under the Clean Water Act. The funding levels requested have been approved by the U.S. House and are also outlined in the Senates version of the legislation.
September 3, 2019
The Honorable Lisa Murkowski, Chairman, and The Honorable Tom Udall, Ranking Member Senate Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee
Dear Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Udall:
The undersigned organizations represent communities across the nation who wish to ensure everyone has access to clean water. We are concerned about the threat of nonpoint source water pollution to public health and the environment. Nonpoint sources are exempt from federal Clean Water Act permitting requirements, and it is therefore crucial that we increase funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Nonpoint Source Management Program under Section 319 of the Act. We urge you to approve at least $200,000,000 for Section 319, which is authorized by H.R. 1331, recently passed in the House of Representatives, and by S. 1604, referred to the committee on Environment and Public Works.
The Section 319 program is the primary federal program with a nationwide reach and a mission of cleaning up waterways impaired by nonpoint source pollution. Through the program, EPA provides financial and technical resources to state and local agencies, which direct those resources to improve water bodies listed as impaired. The nonpoint source program has successfully restored thousands of miles of formerly impaired streams and over a hundred thousand acres of formerly impaired lakes, including:1
- Dix River, Kentucky: Section 319 funded agricultural best management practices and community outreach in the watershed. In 2016, Dix River was removed from the impaired waters list and residents can now use the river for outdoor recreation.2
- Caribou Creek, Alaska, in Denali National Park: Section 319 funded a restoration project to correct erosion damage from mining and its impaired status was lifted in 2010.
- Jaramillo Creek, New Mexico: Section 319 funded projects to restore native species and erect livestock barriers to revive a once-productive trout fishing stream.
- Sauk River Chain of Lakes, Minnesota: Section 319 funding resulted in a 48% reduction in phosphorus levels in this largely agricultural watershed.3
These are just a few examples of the Section 319 program’s successes, but there is a great need for increased levels of funding. Nonpoint source pollution is harming communities across the nation by impairing drinking water sources, damaging fisheries, and impeding outdoor recreation and tourism. For example, the EPA estimates that nationwide the tourism industry loses close to one billion dollars a year due to toxic algal blooms, which are driven by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from nonpoint sources.4 This summer all of Mississippi’s coastal beaches were closed due to toxic algal blooms,5 several of Iowa’s lakeside beaches were closed due to microcystin and E coli caused by nonpoint source pollution, and northern Ohio is experiencing this year’s wave of toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie6, similar to those that shut down Toledo’s drinking water system for three days in 2014.7 The 319 program builds successful partnerships among diverse constituencies with a stake in clean water, ranging from farmers and city residents to universities and regulators.
We ask the subcommittee to invest more resources into the Section 319 program for the benefit of communities across the country that need clean sources of drinking water and who wish to swim and fish in our waters once more.
1 EPA Office of Water, Highlights of The Nonpoint Source Program, 2016.
2 EPA, Success Stories about Restoring Water Bodies Impaired by Nonpoint Source Pollution, Accessed July 17, 2019.
3 EPA, Phosphorus Reductions Achieved in Sauk River Chain of Lakes, August 2005.
4 EPA, “Nutrient pollution, The Effects: Economy.” Accessed July 31 2019
5 CBS news, “All of Mississippi’s beaches have been closed for swimming due to toxic algae,” July 7, 2019.
6 NOAA, “NOAA, partners predict large summer harmful algal bloom for western Lake Erie,” July 11 2019.
7 New York Times, Behind Toledo’s Water Crisis, a Long-Troubled Lake Erie, accessed July 25, 2019.
The League of Women Voters has been at the forefront of the environmental protection movement for decades, consistently supporting legislation to preserve our nation’s natural resources and protect our public health. We support legislation that seeks to protect our country from the physical, economic and public health effects of climate change while also providing pathways to economic prosperity.