infrastructure is located near or on the ocean (Hinrichsen, 1999). More than 95 percent of overseas trade between the United States and other nations moves by ship, including 9 million barrels of oil per day and over 98 percent, by weight, of all non-North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) goods imported into the country. As gateways to our nation and the focal point of commerce, our ports and harbors are critical and vulnerable components of the nation’s infrastructure and homeland security.
Beyond its formal, spatially delimited definition, the coastal zone is inextricably linked to a complex web of environments extending from the upper parts of watersheds out to the open ocean. Variations in watershed outflows influence the types and concentrations of dissolved and suspended materials in coastal waters. Physical, chemical, and biological processes control the distribution of nutrients, the transport of sediment, and the water circulation in coastal waters. Human activities have often resulted in increased sediment and pollution loads to coastal waters, decreased water quality, alteration of physical environments, loss or change of habitat (both onshore and offshore), depletion of fish stocks