National Coastal Assessment: The Story of NCA

In the 1990s the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) realized there was a need for nationally comparable data to determine the condition of our nation's ecosystems. In order to research that question, EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) created EMAP. The Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program's (EMAP) primary purpose was "to develop the necessary toolsto monitor and assess the status and trends of national ecological resources." EPA's EMAP website

The ORD decided a national assessment would require stations to be randomly selected, and a complete assessment would include sediment, water, and biotic data. For one aspect of EMAP, they tested the process out by sampling in biologically and geologically similar coastal regions around the U.S.

The regional sampling was quite time consuming and if a national database was to be established they would need more stations sampled in a shorter period of time. The ORD decided that if they could take EMAP to each coastal state, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii and assist them with the cost, they could collect simultaneous national data. Their goal was to start the program in 2000 and was originally named Coastal 2000. The program called for five years of sediment, water, and biota sampling following a randomized spatial design. The five year data set created a base of information that future data can be compared with, otherwise known as baseline data. This information will help us understand the direction our national coastal ecological resources are headed for the next decade.

Coastal 2000 (named National Coastal Assessment or NCA in 2001) required each state to collect their own data, and report the results to the EPA. To financially assist the participating states, EPA entered into financial agreements with each state in order to help them complete the 5 years of required sampling. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) became involved with NCA in 1999 when EPA presented the program to the Texas resource agencies. During that presentation, TPWD was selected to be the lead agency for the Texas component of the NCA program.

Since 1999, TPWD has completed 5 years of sampling and has been able to partner with other resource agencies and NGOs to increase station abundance for individual sampling seasons. The Coastal Bend Bays and Estuary Program (CBBEP) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) have been the main partners in assisting with enhancing the number of stations collected over the years.

The future of NCA consists of two more years of sampling at a reduced rate. Instead of collecting 50 stations of data during one sampling year, we will be collecting 50 stations over two sampling years. We are able to cooperating with our partners to continue the program despite decreased funding from the EPA. NCA's future is still bright and hopeful, and it is anticipated that EPA's Office of Water (OW) will begin to manage and administer the NCA program within the next couple of years.