Restoring funding to Section 314 of the Clean Lakes Program in the Clean Water Act
NALMS_314_Letter to Legislators Template Final.docx
The Clean Lakes Program was created in 1972 and was established under Section 314 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, later known as the Clean Water Act. Clean Lakes Program grants provided funds under Section 314 to help assess the water quality of lakes in a state or tribe, conduct diagnostic feasibility studies to identify the causes of pollution in the lake, implement projects to solve the problems and post restoration assessments. Between 1976 and 1995 the Clean Lakes Program awarded approximately $145 million in grants. The program has not received any funding since 1995.¹
Lake water quality is declining across the nation despite existing efforts and funding. The number of healthy unpolluted lakes has been declining. The most recent National Lakes Assessment (NLA) found across the country that 45% of lakes are in poor condition with elevated phosphorus concentrations, and 46% were in poor condition with high nitrogen concentrations.² Nutrient pollution, high levels of algae growth, and diminished water clarity are increasing and were observed in 24% of the nation’s lakes.² The algal toxins known as microcystins, which can be harmful to humans and pets, were detected in 21% of lakes. ² Based on biological indicators, 24% of continental U.S. lakes were in poor condition for lake life.
When the 314 Clean Lakes program funding was discontinued in 1995, Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, which provides funds for implementing projects that address nonpoint source water pollution was left to provide some funding for lake restoration. Recent queries of the 319-tracking system indicate that a small percentage of 319 funds are used for lake restoration activities. Limited Section 319 funding is available for lake diagnostic studies, protection of high quality lakes, and in-lake measures that can address harmful algal blooms that can be toxic to humans and pets.
Restoring funding to Section 314 of the Clean Lakes Program in the Clean Water Act is an investment in clean and healthy lakes that will lead to a great return in recreational and tourism dollars. According to an EPA report on the economic benefits of the Clean Lakes Program, the grant program spent approximately $9.5 million and achieved an estimated $90 million in return on investment.3 The benefits from the Clean Lakes Program range across various categories, including recreation, aesthetics, flood control, economic development, fish and wildlife conservation, agriculture, property value, public health, and water supply. Financial returns are expected to be even higher today, as harmful algal blooms have increasingly disrupted local businesses and recreation.4 Lakes provide natural ecosystem services such as water filtration, storage, nutrient cycling, recreation, and food. Many of these services are costly to engineer and replace; thus, it is economically beneficial to allocate funds toward the front-end protection of lakes by preventing their impairments.5 Clean lakes for homes, businesses, and camps help to increase property values and raise revenues by attracting more individuals to an area. Local communities are increasingly aware of the potential negative repercussions of declining water quality on property values. One study found that lakes with excess phosphorus experienced a 0.4%-3.3% decrease in lakefront housing prices.⁶ Researchers found that properties surrounding lakes with high levels of algal toxins experienced a 2-17% decline in property value.7
- ● NALMS recommends that Congress reauthorize funding for the Section 314 Clean Lakes Program and increase the annual appropriations, while maintaining funding for Section 319.
- ● NALMS recommends an ‘Enhanced’ Clean Lakes Program that will prioritize high quality lakes for protective management, as well as lakes in communities with environmental justice concerns.
Visit our website: https://www.nalms.org/
Read our Position statement for an enhanced Clean Lakes Program: https://www.nalms.org/nalms-position-papers/enhanced-314-clean-lakes-program-position-statement/
2. Environmental Protection Agency. (2022, July). National Lakes Assessment 2017 Key Findings EPA. https://www.epa.gov/national-aquatic-resource-surveys/national-lakes-assessment-2017-key-finding
3. A. C. Hall , S. A. Peterson , J. Taggart , G. M. DeGraeve & B. W. Vigon (1987) THE U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY'S CLEAN LAKES PROGRAM: 1975–1985, Lake and Reservoir Management, 3:1, 117-128, DOI: 10.1080/07438148709354767
4. “Economic Benefits of Clean Lakes Program” USEPA. https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi/910101VQ.PDF?Dockey=910101VQ.PDF
5. “Economic Benefits of Protecting Healthy Watersheds” (2012). EPA. https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/201510/documents/economic_benefits_factsheet3.pdf
6. Moore, M. R., Doubek, J. P., Xu, H., & Cardinale, B. J. (2020). Hedonic Price Estimates of Lake Water Quality: Valued Attribute, Instrumental Variables, and Ecological-Economic Benefits. Ecological Economics, 176, 106692.
7. Wolf, D., & Klaiber, H. A. (2016). (rep.). Bloom and Bust: Toxic Algae’s Impact on Nearby Property Values (pp. 1–33).