The Basis for Estuarine Habitat Restoration and Nutrient Trading Schemes in the Clean Water Act
The IUP Journal of Environmental Sciences, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 41-50, February 2010
Posted: 22 Feb 2010
Date Written: February 19, 2010
This paper examines how habitat restoration techniques, such as revitalizing shellfish beds and restoring wetlands, can be used as a way to clean estuarine waters from the effects of Nitrogen (N) pollution, and, in doing so, satisfy the statutory requirements and policy intent of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA requires each state to produce a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) report for bodies of water that are impacted by pollutants, as well as a remediation plan. This report begins by identifying a specific variety of pollution, the scale of the problem, and the extent to which the pollutants must be reduced. In addition, strategies are identified to accomplish the goal of pollutant reduction. Since the 1990s, research has demonstrated the ability of oysters and other shellfish to filter the water column and therefore remove the effects of over-nitrification in coastal and estuarine waters. Other research has shown that wetland restoration can be used as a denitrification tool as well. Both these strategies use natural processes and have the benefits of not only removing nitrogen and its effects but also can provide benefits such as stimulating the regrowth of valuable eelgrass beds and revitalizing finfish populations and crustacean nurseries. Both have the ultimate effect of providing not only clearer estuarine waters but also a potential source of sustainable food stocks. This paper discusses the feasibility of using shellfish and wetlands restoration as an integral part of an overall strategy for the removal of the effects of over-nitrification of estuarine waters in the TMDL process and argues that these tools meet both the statutory requirements CWA and its policy objectives of restoring water quality.
Keywords: Environmental law compliance, Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) process, Nitrogen pollution, Filtration, Oysters, Wetland restoration, Nutrient trading
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