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THE ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING AND ASSESSMENT PROGRAM: NATIONAL COASTAL ASSESSMENT - LESSONS LEARNED
Summers, J K., V D. Engle, J E. Harvey, G Pesch, AND W W. Walker. THE ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING AND ASSESSMENT PROGRAM: NATIONAL COASTAL ASSESSMENT - LESSONS LEARNED. Presented at American Chemical Society Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL, April 7-11, 2002.
The purpose of the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program's National Coastal Assessment is to estimate the current status, extent, changes, and trends in ecological indicators of the condition of the nation's coastal resources on a state, regional and national basis. Based on NCA monitoring activities from 1999-2001, 100% of the nation's estuarine waters (at over 2500 locations) were sampled focusing on suites of measurements describing the benthic community, the fish community, water quality, levels of sediment and tissue contamination, sediment toxicity, and SAV extent/condition. This estuarine monitoring is based on a probability-based sampling design implemented over a 60-day window during July-September. The use of probability sampling explicitly incorporates a confident characterization of uncertainty. It is this ability to design and calculated uncertainty that makes the NCA approach unique among monitoring programs. These design capabilities further incorporate the desires of environmental decision-making officials (level of acceptable
uncertainty) with sampling requirements to develop defensible data quality objectives (DQOs). The results of monitoring represent the first National Coastal Report Card delineating the condition of the nation's estuarine resources. Earlier surveys (1990-1997) showed that 34% ? 4% of the sediments of the nation had degraded biological conditions while 33% ? 4% of the area showed degraded conditions in relation to human uses of the resource (e.g., water clarity, tissue contaminants, and the presence of marine debris). The next report card on coastal condition is scheduled for 2003 and will be based on surveys completed in 2000-2001. Changes in these attributes from the early 1990s to the early 2000s will be examined and specific comparisons of differences among regional and state resources will be made. A discussion of the utility and benefits of the surveys to regional and state resource managers is provided in terms of planning, required evaluations of resource condition (305b), listing of impaired waters (303d), development of action plans (TMDLs) and permitting.