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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fishery, Aquaculture, and Marine Mammal Issues in the 112th Congress



Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy


Fish and marine mammals are important resources in open ocean and nearshore coastal areas; many federal laws and regulations guide their management as well as the management of their habitat. Aquaculture or fish farming enterprises seek to supplement food traditionally provided by wild harvests.

Commercial and sport fishing are jointly managed by the federal government and individual states. States generally have jurisdiction within 3 miles of the coast. Beyond state jurisdiction and out to 200 miles in the federal exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the federal government (National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS) manages fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) through eight regional fishery management councils. Beyond 200 miles, the United States participates in international agreements relating to specific areas or species. The 112
th Congress has enacted provisions to direct certain management measures for U.S. tuna fishing under the authority of the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (P.L. 112-55); to authorize the Corps of Engineers to take emergency measures to exclude Asian carp from the Great Lakes (P.L. 112-74); to create a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund to promote efforts to achieve long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, fish stocks, fish habitat, and the recreational, commercial, and charter fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico (P.L. 112-141); and to extend the authority to make expenditures from the Highway Trust Fund and other trust funds, including various programs under the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, through FY2014 (also in P.L. 112-141).

Aquaculture—the farming of fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals and plants in a controlled environment—is expanding rapidly abroad, yet with little growth in the United States. In the United States, important species cultured include catfish, salmon, shellfish, and trout. The 112
th Congress has enacted provisions to direct the National Aquatic Animal Health Task Force to establish an infectious salmon anemia research program (P.L. 112-55) and to authorize the Corps of Engineers to transfer funds to the Fish and Wildlife Service for National Fish Hatcheries in FY2012 to mitigate for fisheries lost due to Corps of Engineers projects (P.L. 112-74).

Marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). With few exceptions, the MMPA prohibits harm or harassment (“take”) of marine mammals, unless permits are obtained. It also addresses specific situations of concern, such as dolphin mortality associated with the eastern tropical Pacific tuna fishery. Other than annual appropriations, no marine mammal legislation has been enacted by the 112
th Congress.

The level of appropriations for fisheries, aquaculture/hatchery, and marine mammal programs administered by the NMFS and the Fish and Wildlife Service is a recurring issue during the 112
th Congress due to pressures to reduce federal spending.


Date of Report: November 20, 2012
Number of Pages: 37
Order Number: R41613
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The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the 112th Congress: Conflicting Values and Difficult Choices



Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

Pervaze A. Sheikh
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Robert Meltz
Legislative Attorney


The Endangered Species Act (ESA; P.L. 93-205, 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1543) was enacted to increase protection for, and provide for the recovery of, vanishing wildlife and vegetation. Under ESA, species of plants and animals (both vertebrate and invertebrate) can be listed as endangered or threatened according to assessments of their risk of extinction. Habitat loss is the primary cause for listing species. Once a species is listed, powerful legal tools are available to aid its recovery and protect its habitat. Accordingly, when certain resources are associated with listed species— such as water in arid regions like California, old growth timber in national forests, or free-flowing rivers—ESA is seen as an obstacle to continued or greater human use of these resources. ESA may also be controversial because dwindling species are usually harbingers of broader ecosystem decline or conflicts. As a result, ESA is considered a primary driver of large-scale ecosystem restoration issues.

Major issues concerning ESA in recent years have included the role of science in decision making, critical habitat (CH) designation, incentives for property owners, and appropriate protection for listed species, among others.

Although many bills have been introduced, little legislation related to ESA has been enacted by the 112
th Congress. Committees have conducted oversight of the implementation of various federal programs and laws that address threatened and endangered species. P.L. 112-10 (final appropriations for FY2011) included a legislative delisting of a portion of the reintroduced Rocky Mountain gray wolf population. P.L. 112-74 provided slightly more than $237 million for FWS endangered species and related programs; this FY2012 funding for FWS core ESA programs was 0.5% more than the FY2011 enacted amount and 3.5% less than the FY2012 Administration request.

The authorization for spending under ESA expired on October 1, 1992. The prohibitions and requirements of ESA remain in force, even in the absence of an authorization, and funds have been appropriated to implement the administrative provisions of ESA in each subsequent fiscal year. Proposals to reauthorize and extensively amend ESA were last considered in the 109
th Congress, but none were enacted. No legislative proposals were introduced in the 110th or 111th Congresses to reauthorize ESA.

This report discusses oversight issues and legislation introduced in the 112
th Congress to address ESA implementation and management of endangered and threatened species.


Date of Report: November 19, 2012
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R41608
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Endangered Species: A Compendium



This Compendium explores the major features and controversies of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It covers areas such as funding and exemptions. It demonstrates how science has been used in selected cases and offers a discussion of the nature and role of science in general, and its role in the ESDA process in particular, together with general and agency information quality requirements and policies, and a review of how the courts have viewed agency use of science.

Detailed coverage is provided the polar bear, Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead trout, Pacific salmon and steelhead trout, bald eagle, gray wolves, sage grouse, and whale populations.

The ESA has been among the most contentious environmental laws because of its strict substantive provisions. Increasing numbers of animal and plant species face possible extinction. These species are valued for ecological, educational, scientific, recreational, spiritual, aesthetic, and (in some cases) economic reasons. Some contend that because the loss of species could have predictable and unpredictable social and economic effects, all species should be saved. Others disagree, and hold that the cost to society to save species is concrete and large, while the benefits are vague. Protection of endangered and threatened species—and the law that protects them, the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA, 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1543)—are controversial, in part, because dwindling species are often indicators of competition for scarce resources.


Date of Report: November 5, 2012
Number of Pages: 217
Order Number: C-12018
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Water Quality Management: A Compendium



Dominating this 500+ page Compendium are extensive sections covering implementation of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. A third equally extensive section focuses on water infrastructure.  

The two federal laws, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, provide the framework for the nation’s efforts to provide safe and healthy water to its citizens. Although much progress has been made towards the goals established in these laws, long-standing problems persist, and new problems have emerged. Specific areas of interest include whether additional steps are necessary to achieve the overall goals of these acts; how to meet the costs and technological challenges of providing safe drinking water and cleaning the flow of used water from a community; and what is the appropriate federal role in guiding and paying for safe and healthy water and other activities.  

Over the last 35 years, federal, state and local governments, and private utilities have invested more than $100 billion in water infrastructure in order to attain the goals of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet remaining funding needs are projected to be as much as $660 billion over the next two decades. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), if there is no increase in investment, there will be about an $11 billion annual gap between current capital expenditures for water infrastructure (which total $23 billion annually) and projected spending needs. Analysts predict that, barring major breakthroughs in technology, investment costs will rise for decades to come as more of the existing water infrastructure deteriorates. Many systems simultaneously face the need to increase security measures and to construct treatment plants to remove newly regulated drinking water contaminants. At issue are how to meet funding needs and what are the appropriate public and private sector roles in doing so. State, municipal, and rural stakeholders have called for greater federal investment in water infrastructure, while others (including privately owned water utilities) have argued for greater self-reliance.


Date of Report: October 25, 2012
Number of Pages: 523
Order Number: C-12020
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Federal Involvement in Flood Response and Flood Infrastructure Repair: Hurricane Sandy Recovery



Nicole T. Carter
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Hurricane Sandy was a reminder that the United States is vulnerable to significant weather hazards, and that infrequent but intense flood events can cause significant damage and disruption. In addition to wind damages and electricity disruptions, the storm’s surge damaged property and infrastructure in coastal and inlet areas, while the storm’s rains and snowmelt swelled rivers and creeks. These impacts contributed to public safety concerns and private and public property loss. Although the storm was not notable for its wind intensity, Sandy’s significant size, its unusually low atmospheric pressure, and the astronomic high tide combined with other weather systems to amplify flooding consequences and economic and transportation disruptions. With events like Hurricane Sandy, common questions for Congress include: Which federal programs can assist with flood-fighting? Which federal programs can assist with repairing damaged dunes, levees, and other flood protection? What are the policy and funding issues that may arise during recovery?

While state and local entities have significant flood-related responsibilities, federal resources are called in as these entities are overwhelmed and as presidential disasters are declared. Several agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, have authorities to respond to flood emergencies and to assist with recovery efforts. FEMA has primary responsibilities for federal flood insurance, disaster assistance, and hazard mitigation programs. In addition to its floodfighting authorities, the Corps has a program to repair damaged levees, dams, berms, and other flood control works. Post-Sandy demand for such repairs is likely to be extensive.

For work performed under some of the Corps authorities, a near-term issue may be that Congress typically funds these actions using emergency supplementals. While current funding levels are not likely to interfere with emergency response activities, federal funds may become an issue in proceeding with post-disaster repair and recovery investments. After the emergency has passed and recovery has been initiated, local and federal decision makers will be faced with questions of how to rebuild and what types of flood protection investments to make. Federal policy makers will be faced with the recurring questions of whether current flood policies and projects are effective at reducing flood risk and are financially sustainable.

Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Midwest flooding in 2011 and 2008, Hurricane Ike in 2008, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 renewed congressional interest in the suite of tools available to improve flood resiliency. A challenge is how to structure federal actions and programs so they provide incentives to reduce flood risk without unduly infringing on private property rights or usurping local decision making. Tackling this challenge would require adjustments to flood insurance, disaster aid policies and practices, and programs for structural and nonstructural flood risk reduction measures and actions. In July 2012, the 112th Congress enacted, as part of MAP-21 (P.L. 112-141), an extension and some revisions of FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program through September 30, 2017. Otherwise, legislative action in recent years has done little to alter the broad federal approach to the nation’s flood risk management.



Date of Report: November 5, 2012
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: R42803
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