[Federal Register Volume 66, Number 196 (Wednesday, October 10, 2001)]
[Notices]
[Pages 51665-51667]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 01-25415]


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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

[FRL-7077-3]


Nutrient Criteria Development; Notice of Nutrient Criteria 
Technical Guidance Manual: Estuarine and Coastal Marine Waters

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

ACTION: Notice of Nutrient Criteria Technical Guidance Manual: 
Estuarine and Coastal Marine Waters.

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SUMMARY: The Environmental Protection Agency announces the availability 
of a nutrient criteria technical guidance manual for estuaries and 
coastal marine waters. This document provides State and Tribal water 
quality managers and others with guidance on how to develop numeric 
nutrient criteria for estuaries and coastal marine waters. This 
document does not contain site-specific numeric nutrient criteria for 
any estuary or coastal marine water. This guidance was principally 
developed to assist States and Tribes in their efforts to establish 
nutrient criteria. States and Tribes are clearly in the best position 
to consider site-specific conditions in developing nutrient criteria. 
While this guidance contains EPA's scientific recommendations regarding 
defensible approaches for developing regional nutrient criteria, this 
guidance is not regulation; thus it does not impose legally binding 
requirements on EPA, States, Territories, Tribes, or the public, and 
might not apply to a particular situation based upon the circumstances. 
States, Territories, and authorized Tribes retain the discretion to 
adopt, where appropriate, other scientifically defensible approaches to 
developing regional or local nutrient criteria that differ from these 
recommendations.
    We have decided to issue technical guidance in a manner similar to 
that which we are using to issue new and revised criteria (see Federal 
Register, December 10, 1998, 63 FR 68354 and in the EPA document 
titled, National Recommended Water Quality-Correction EPA 822-Z-99-001, 
April 1999). Therefore, we invite the public to provide scientific 
views on this guidance. We will review and consider information 
submitted by the public on significant scientific issues that might not 
have otherwise been identified by the Agency during development of this 
guidance. This guidance has been through external peer review, and a 
summary of these comments will be available on the Nutrient website 
within 30 days of this notice (http://www. EPA.gov/OST/standards/
nutrient.html). After review of the submitted significant scientific 
information, we may publish a revised document, or publish a notice 
indicating its decision not to revise the document.
    This document has been prepared for publication by the Office of 
Science and Technology, Office of Water, U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not 
constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

DATES: All significant scientific information must be submitted to the 
Agency by December 10, 2001. Any scientific information submitted 
should be adequately documented and contain enough supporting 
information to indicate that acceptable and scientifically defensible 
procedures were used and that the results are likely reliable.

ADDRESSES: This document contains a summary of the Nutrient Criteria 
Technical Guidance Manual: Estuarine and Coastal Marine Waters. Copies 
of the complete document may be obtained from EPA's National Service 
Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP) by phone at (513) 489-
8190 or toll free (800) 490-9198, or by e-mail to: ncepiwo@one.net, or 
by conventional mail to 11029 Kenwood Road, Cincinnati, OH 45242. The 
document is also available electronically at http://www.epa.gov/OST/
standards/nutrient.html.  An original and two copies of written 
significant scientific information should sent to Robert Cantilli (MC-
4304), U.S. EPA, Ariel Rios Building, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW , 
Washington, DC 20460. Written significant scientific information may be 
submitted electronically in ASCII or Word Perfect 5.1, 5.2, 6.1, 8.0 or 
9.0 formats to OW-General@epa.gov. 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. David Flemer, USEPA, Health and 
Ecological Criteria Division (4304), Office of Science and Technology, 
Ariel Rios Building, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20460; 
or call (202) 260-0619; fax (202) 260-1036; or e-mail 
flemer.david@epa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Introduction

    On June 25, 1998, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 
presented a National Strategy for the Development of Regional Nutrient 
Criteria that described the approach the Agency would follow in 
developing nutrient information and working with States and Tribes to 
adopt nutrient criteria as part of State/Tribal water quality 
standards. The stated goal of the strategy was the development of 
waterbody-type technical guidance and recommended ecoregion-specific 
nutrient criteria by the year 2000. Once EPA developed waterbody-type 
guidance and recommended nutrient criteria, EPA would assist States and 
Tribes in adopting numeric nutrient criteria into water quality 
standards.

Overview of the Problem

    Cultural eutrophication (i.e., that associated with humans) of 
United States surface waters is a long-standing problem; approximately 
half of the reported impairments in National waters are attributable to 
excess nutrients. Nitrogen and phosphorus are the primary cause of 
eutrophication, and algal blooms are often a response to enrichment. 
Within estuaries and potentially some coastal marine waters, chronic 
symptoms of overenrichment include low dissolved oxygen, fish kills, 
increased sediment accumulation, and species and abundance shifts of 
flora and fauna. The problem is National in scope, but varies in nature 
from one region of the country to another due to geographical 
variations in geology and soil types. For these reasons, EPA has 
decided to develop its recommend nutrient criteria on a regional basis 
for use by States and Tribes.

Summary of Nutrient Criteria Technical Guidance Manual for 
Estuarine and Coastal Marine Waters

    EPA initiated the National Strategy to Develop Regional Nutrient 
Criteria to address enrichment problems. The Nutrient Criteria 
Technical Guidance Manual: Lakes and Reservoirs, First Edition was the 
first of a series of waterbody-type specific manuals produced to assist 
EPA Regions, States, and Tribes in establishing ecoregionally 
appropriate nutrient criteria. EPA also developed a manual for rivers 
and streams, and, in addition to today's manual for estuarine and 
coastal marine waters, is developing a manual for wetlands. EPA expects 
States and Tribes to use these manuals as the basis for developing 
State water quality standards for nutrients, to help identify water 
quality impairments, and to evaluate the relative success in reducing 
cultural eutrophication. In addition to developing these waterbody-type 
specific manuals, EPA is developing nutrient criteria guidance under 
section 304(a) for each of the 14 ecoregions it has identified in the 
continental United States. EPA expects States and Tribes to use the 
manuals, other information and local expertise to refine EPA's 304(a) 
nutrient criteria guidance so that the nutrient water quality criteria 
eventually adopted by States and Tribes are tailored to more localized 
conditions. In order to assist States and Tribes in this undertaking, 
as well as to verify section 304 (a) nutrient criteria guidance, and to 
provide national consistency wherever possible, EPA has established 
Regional Technical Assistance Groups (RTAGs). RTAGs are a collection of 
EPA, State, Tribal representatives who are working together to take 
EPA's forthcoming section 304(a) nutrient criteria guidance

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as a starting point to develop more refined ecoregional nutrient 
criteria. (EPA is also using data and expertise provided by the RTAGs 
in the development of its section 304(a) nutrient criteria guidance for 
the 14 ecoregions it has identified.) EPA expects the RTAGs to use the 
processes set forth in the waterbody-type specific manuals to develop 
recommended nutrient criteria on an ecoregional basis or a more refined 
basis (such as subecoregion, coastal province, State or Tribe-level, 
more defined class of estuary/coastal marine water). Today's manual for 
estuarine and coastal marine waters also explains how States or Tribes 
can adopt nutrient water quality standards based on the criteria values 
recommended by the EPA and/or RTAGs.
    The key parameters addressed in Nutrient Criteria Technical 
Guidance Manual: Estuarine and Coastal Marine Waters are total 
phosphorus, total nitrogen, algal biomass, and a measure of water 
clarity, such as Secchi depth. EPA encourages states and tribes to 
include additional response variables which they consider necessary to 
protect water quality. These variables may include (but are not limited 
to) dissolved oxygen, submerged aquatic vegetation, and macrobenthos. 
As set forth in the manual, the elements that EPA expects States and 
Tribes to consider in developing a nutrient criterion are:
    (1) historical data and other information to establish perspective;
    (2) current or historical reference site information;
    (3) models used to simulate or validate the empirical relationships 
established between causal (nutrients) and response (biological 
indicators) variables; and
    (4) evaluation of downstream consequences before finalizing 
criteria values.

EPA also expects the States or Tribes (or the RTAG when developing 
criteria guidance) to use their best professional judgement when 
examining the information and establishing criteria.
    EPA expects the criteria development and implementation process 
(undertaken by EPA, the RTAGs and others) to proceed as follows:
     Data acquisition and review, as well as additional data 
gathering and processing methods.
     Classification of the estuarine and coastal waters by 
physical characteristics.
     Reference site selection and data reduction to identify 
current or historical reference conditions.
     Development of defensible nutrient criteria, verified by 
an RTAG and evaluated for potential downstream effects.
     Adoption of nutrient criteria by States and Tribes into 
their water quality standards, ideally taking into account the 
reference condition data and designated uses.
     Implementation of EPA-approved nutrient criteria by EPA, 
States, and Tribes to identify areas of water quality impairment due to 
nutrients and to respond appropriately.
    These subjects are described in detail in the Nutrient Criteria 
Technical Guidance Manual: Estuarine and Coastal Marine Waters.
    The manual concludes with chapters describing data models and 
management options that actively protect or restore estuarine and 
coastal marine waters. Case histories illustrating nutrient criteria 
development experiences are appended with the names of individual 
specialists to contact for more information.
    The Nutrient Criteria Technical Guidance Document: Estuarine and 
Coastal Marine Waters that is being announced in this Notice was 
developed after consideration of peer review comments provided by a 
panel of five external reviewers.

    Dated: September 18, 2001.
Geoffrey H. Grubbs,
Director, Office of Science and Technology.
[FR Doc. 01-25415 Filed 10-9-01; 8:45 am]
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