The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)have agreed to work together to help coastal communities grow in ways that benefit the economy, public health and the environment. The partnership was formalized with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement in January.

The new coastal communities partnership will seek to deliver the latest information and technology to communities for reusing previously developed land and providing more housing and transportation choices, while preserving critical natural areas and limiting air and water pollution. These techniques are important strategies for limiting air and water pollution, preserving land, and enhancing quality of life.

The agreement will help NOAA and EPA achieve national goals for better management of coastal resources and protection of human health and the environment.

The EPA-NOAA Partnership will provide training for local government staff and officials; outreach and education on successful policies, ordinances, and initiatives; and assessments of the impacts of management actions on sensitive coastal areas.

Coastal watersheds (areas draining into bays and oceans) are growing rapidly, with 55 percent of the U.S. population is living within 50 miles of a coast. In the past 20 years, the rate of all land development nationwide has grown 30 percent, twice the rate of population growth. This rapid growth presents coastal communities with both challenges and opportunities. The partnership is the second between NOAA and EPA focused on coastal communities. In 2003 the agencies established a joint program to assist local port and harbor communities redevelop brownfields.

The Portfields Memorandum of Understanding is already producing results in New Bedford, Mass., Bellingham, Wash. and Tampa, Fla., with new waterfront efforts underway.

The efforts have shown that communities can respond in innovative ways that not only create jobs while protecting rivers, watersheds and beaches, but also maintain the quality of life that makes coastal communities attractive for development.