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Coasts and Oceans
Also see Fisheries and Marine Mammals, International Issues, Wetlands, and related tables and figures in Part II.
A 1990 assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of 26,693 estuarine coastline miles and 4,320 ocean coastline miles revealed that only 56 percent of estuarine waters fully support designated uses such as swimming and fishing, while 89 percent of coastal ocean waters fully support designated uses. Only 2 percent of Great Lakes coasts assessed in the study support designated uses.
Conditions and Trends
The vast reaches of the oceans are relatively clean and healthy primarily because of their enormous volume and capacity for dilution. However, the edges of the oceans—the coastal waters—are subject to the disruptive impacts of human endeavors. These include the consumption of resources, disposal of wastes, and alteration of shores for social and economic benefits.
As defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. coastal zone is comprised of the 666 coastal counties, cities, boroughs, or other county equivalents within 50 miles of ocean, bay, sound, or Great Lakes coasts. Excluding Alaska, U.S. coastal counties support nearly half of the nation's population while accounting for only 11 percent of the land mass. NOAA studies anticipate a 15-percent increase in coastal population over the next two decades, concentrated in California,
Total U.S. Pacific coast Gulf coast Atlantic coast Great Lakes Interior of
Source: See Part II, Table 6.
Florida, and Texas. Coastal population density increased from 248 people per square mile in 1960 to 341 in 1988, more than four times the national average.
life. For example, coastal recreation alone represents significant expenditures. Recreational fishermen spent an estimated $6.2 billion in 1985, and recreational boaters spent $17.1 billion in 1989. An estimated 94 million people participate annually in coastal boating and fishing. At the same time, the multitude of uses concentrates pressure on coastal resources and processes.
Varied interests use coasts, oceans, and their associated resources in a multitude of ways: • Commercial fishing;
The multiple demands placed on the coastal zone, combined with increasing population density, reflect the zone's high economic value and contribution to the nation's quality of
Pollution stress results from activities in and adjacent to coastal waters. Oil spills and waste discharges from boats, industrial facilities, and municipal wastewater treatment plants are direct sources of pollution. Activities occurring throughout watersheds that drain to coastal waters provide indirect sources of pollution in the form of point-source discharges into rivers. Nonpoint sources such as runoff from agricultural or urban areas carry nutrients, chemical pesticides and herbi
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce NOAA, Estuaries of the United States, (Washington, DC: NOAA, 1990.)
cides, and increased sediment loads resulting from development.
Coastal pollution has its greatest impacts on recreational use, fish and shellfish, and wildlife habitat values. Residents and recreationists in many coastal areas continue to experience beach closures because of unsafe levels of fecal coliform bacteria or marine debris. Other problems include fish and shellfish consumption advisories, shellfish bed closures, and diminished aesthetic quality. The viability of 75 percent of the nation's commercial fisheries depends on clean and functioning estuaries. Pollution and physical alteration may render coastal habitats incapable of providing elements critical to the life cycles of many fish and shellfish. Coastal Hazards
As coastal development increases, so do potential threats to life, property,
and natural resources, resulting from coastal hazards—natural and humaninduced. Flooding, high winds, tsunamis, coastal erosion, sea level rise, and storm surges associated with hurricanes and typhoons are all of concern to coastal planners, managers, and residents. The need to protect natural features such as wetlands, mangroves, dunes, and coastal barrier islands is reinforced each time the nation experiences the destructive forces of hurricanes such as Hugo (South Carolina, 1989), Andrew (south Florida and Louisiana, 1992), and Iniki (Kauai, Hawaii, 1992).
Improvements in the ability to predict the severity and landfall of coastal storms have resulted in far fewer injuries and deaths resulting from these events. However, even as storm-related mortality decreases, the costs of storm damage to heavily developed and rapid
Over 500 persons lost on ships at sea; 600-900 estimated deaths. ** Some 344 persons lost on ships at sea. Note: Information does not include Hurricane Iniki. The National Hurricane Center began naming hurricanes in 1950.
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA National Hurricane Center, Miami, FL, 1992.
Note: Adjusted to 1990 dollars on basis of U.S. Department of Commerce composite construction cost indexes. Information does not include Hurricane Iniki. Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA National Hurricane Center, Miami, FL, 1992.
ly developing coastal areas increase. Damages from Hurricane Andrew could reach $30 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.
Oceans. The world's oceans are under stress, with their productive and regenerative capacity threatened by pol
lution and over-utilization of marine resources. In contrast to coastal regions, the open sea remains relatively clean. Lead, synthetic organic compounds, and artificial radionuclides are widely detectable but at low levels. The oil slicks and litter common along sea lanes remain, for the most part, of minor
consequence to communities of organisms living in the open-ocean areas.
Programs and Policies
Several federal agencies share responsibility for coastal and ocean issues. NOAA (Department of Commerce) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (Department of the Interior) are responsible for stewardship of living marine resources. NOAA, EPA, FWS, the Minerals Management Service (Department of the Interior), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Navy are all active in marinerelated scientific research. Navigational safety and national security are covered by NOAA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Navy, and the Coast Guard, while offshore minerals development is primarily the responsibility of MMS. EPA is the lead agency responsible for the regulation of pollution sources, and NOAA and the Coast Guard also address coastal marine pollution.
that cover 94 percent of the U.S. coastline (84,117 miles). Texas, Ohio, Minnesota, and Georgia are in the process of developing CZM programs, and presently, the Great Lakes states of Illinois and Indiana do not participate in the program. In 1992 the majority of participating states prepared assessments and strategies to address priority coastal enhancement in such areas as natural hazards, shoreline access, wetlands, marine debris, ocean resources, special area management planning, government facility siting, and cumulative and secondary impacts of development.
Nonpoint Source Pollution. The CZMA Amendments of 1990 require participating coastal states to develop Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Programs subject to approval by NOAA and EPA. Nonpoint source pollution is now believed to contribute more to water quality degradation than point sources. Nonpoint pollution programs will need to focus on the following sources of water pollution that impair or threaten U.S. coastal waters:
• Agricultural runoff;
Planning and Management
Programs to manage the nation's coasts and oceans are mandated by federal laws, including the Coastal Zone Management Act Amendments of 1990 (CZMA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA).
Coastal Zone Management. The Coastal Zone Management Program, authorized by CZMA, is administered primarily by NOAA. Through a federal-state partnership, states with federally approved Coastal Zone Management (CZM) plans are eligible for federal grants and technical assistance to manage their coastal resources. Presently 29 of the 35 U.S. coastal states and territories have approved CZM programs
Geographic Initiatives. In response to the multiple demands placed on coastal resources, coastal managers increasingly base data collection and management programs on ecologically determined geographic units such as drainage basins, estuaries, or ecosystems. The geographic approach considers the full range of factors that contribute to resource degradation.