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PR BROWNER APPROVES LONG TERM PLAN TO PROTECT LOUIS. ESTUARY

Release Date: 12/20/96
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PR BROWNER APPROVES LONG TERM PLAN TO PROTECT LOUIS. ESTUARY

FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 20, 1996

BROWNER APPROVES LONG-TERM PLAN TO PROTECT LOUISIANA'S BARATARIATERREBONNE ESTUARY

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol M.

Browner today signed the final plan for long-term cleanup of

Louisiana's Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary. The four million acre

estuary contains more coastal wetlands than any other estuary in the

United States. However, the estuary is disappearing quickly -- a

half-acre of coastal land turns to open water every 15 minutes.

"Today's plan will provide vital protection for this coastal area in ways that make economic and environmental sense for the people of Louisana," Browner said. "We salute the six years of effort from area government, businesses and citizens to preserve this important waterway for future generations."

Barataria-Terrebonne is a wedge-shaped area between the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers in south Louisiana containing levees, forests, swamps, marshes, islands, bays, bayous and other coastal habitats. Since l932, the area has lost over 656 square miles of productive wetlands and barrier islands due to coastal development and attempts to change the natural flow of the waters.

Estuaries are coastal areas, such as bays or sounds, where fresh water from rivers mixes with salt water from the ocean. Estuaries are vital to the nation's economy: almost one-third of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product is produced in coastal areas. They support national and international ports, commercial fisheries and recreational opportunities. More than half of all Americans live in coastal states.

Barataria-Terrebonne was placed in the National Estuary Program in l990. Congress established the program in l987 to identify and protect nationally significant estuaries. There are now 28 estuaries in the program and 15 comprehensive management plans have been developed and approved.

The comprehensive plan contains 51 individual action plans designed to address complex scientific and technical issues including: hydrological modification (changes in the natural flow of water), as well as reduced sediment flows; habitat loss; changes in living resources; eutrophication (oxygen loss as a result of pollution further leading to plant overgrowth in water); pathogen and toxic substance contamination. The program also focuses on preserving economic growth and coordinating future restoration programs. It is a consensus of representatives from the private and public sectors, including government, industry, business and environmental interest

groups.

The comprehensive plan is the first of any EPA project to receive national recognition as "outstanding and of exceptionally high merit" by the American Planning Association, a national association representing professional planners from many walks of life. In April l997, the plan leaders will be presented with the Association's l997 National Planning Award for Outstanding Planning in the Comprehensive Planning-Large Jurisdiction category.

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