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Water: Polluted Runoff

May 16, 1996

Dear Interested Colleague:

The Office of Water of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and senior officials of State agencies responsible for managing nonpoint source pollution have developed a new approach to further strengthen State nonpoint source management programs. This new approach builds upon the environmental protection afforded by the yearly national nonpoint source grant program administered under the Clean Water Act, and significantly reduces Federally-imposed administrative requirements.

EPA and State agencies responsible for managing nonpoint source pollution have agreed on a number of important changes to the national guidance EPA uses to support State nonpoint source management programs under section 319 of the Clean Water Act. We are pleased to provide you with a final copy of this new national guidance. This guidance is also available through the Internet at http://www.epa.gov/OWOW.

State nonpoint source management programs have matured considerably since the passage of the 1987 Federal Clean Water Act; experience in many States extends much further back in history. All States have approved nonpoint source programs and by the end of fiscal year 1996 EPA will have provided about $470 million in grants to States to implement these programs. While we are beginning to see environmental progress, Federal and State processes need to be streamlined to increase the effectiveness of nonpoint source management programs and to speed progress towards solving our nonpoint source pollution problems.

Our shared long-term vision is that we implement dynamic, effective nonpoint source programs designed to achieve and maintain beneficial uses of water.

To achieve this vision, EPA and State agencies responsible for managing nonpoint source pollution have adopted these themes for leadership:

  • Search for opportunities - look for innovative ways to improve the program.
  • Inspire a shared vision - enlist people in the effort.
  • Foster collaboration - enable individuals and organizations to act by sharing information and providing choice.
  • Create models that can lead the way to broader successes.
  • Celebrate accomplishments - recognize contributions that individuals make.
  • Emphasize local, watershed-based approaches tailored to needs.

EPA and State cooperative efforts led to several modifications to the nonpoint source grants program early last year. For example, since most States exceeded ground-water targets established in prior nonpoint source grants guidance, EPA dropped these targets for fiscal year 1996. Similarly, targets were dropped for watershed resource restoration projects and national monitoring projects. While EPA and States recognize the continuing importance of these activities, States will be provided maximum flexibility in determining whether or to what extent to apply section 319 funds for these purposes. Each State now has the discretion to use a small portion of its grant to conduct specific nonpoint source-related assessments and to revise and strengthen its nonpoint source management program.

In the enclosed final nonpoint source program and grants guidance for fiscal year 1997 and beyond, EPA and States have moved beyond these initial steps to embrace a new framework for the implementation of State nonpoint source management programs. This is the basic approach:

  1. Upgrade State Programs. Beginning in late Fiscal Year 1996 and continuing in FY 1997, each State will be encouraged to review its nonpoint source management program and revise it as needed to assure that the program achieves nine key program elements. These nine key elements are described briefly in the Executive Summary of the draft guidance and explained in more detail in Section III-A. A program evaluation guide based on these nine key elements is presented in Appendix A.
  2. Eliminate Competitive Grants. EPA will no longer use a competitive grants approach, beginning in FY 1997. Using the current allocation formula, EPA will provide a predictable amount of funds to each State contingent upon Congressionally appropriated funding levels.
  3. Streamline Grant Award and Reporting Processes. States will have greater flexibility for directing section 319 grant funds, consistent with the State's nonpoint source management programs and with Federal law. EPA will also reduce State reporting responsibilities and will speed up grant schedules.
  4. Reform State Oversight by Recognizing "Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits States." Grant award and reporting procedures will be further reduced and streamlined for States that have adopted all nine key program elements and which have a proven track record of effective implementation. Special recognition for Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits States will be extended by EPA's Assistant Administrator for Water and Regional Administrators, and a number of added administrative incentives will be offered. Our goal is that all States will become Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits States in a few years.

EPA and State agencies responsible for managing nonpoint pollution will initiate a second, long-term effort to further improve and strengthen State nonpoint source management programs. We will use a consensus-based approach to engage a wide variety of Federal, State, Tribal, local and private-sector partners to agree upon specific ways to help States to implement their new nonpoint source management programs, especially technical tools, assistance, monitoring, and supportive action. We will need your support to succeed.

We hope you share our excitement about this new generation of State nonpoint source management programs. If you have any questions or additional comments about the new direction or about the enclosed guidance, please let us know.

Sincerely,


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