Appendix A—
September 20, 1994 letter from Dr. Edward Martinko, Director, EMAP



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--> Appendix A— September 20, 1994 letter from Dr. Edward Martinko, Director, EMAP

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--> UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY WASHINGTON, D.C. 20460 SEP 20 1994 OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT Dr. Richard Fisher c/o The Committee to Review the EPA's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program Water Sciences and Technology Board National Research Council 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20418 Dear Dick: I am pleased to provide you with an overview of important changes made in the operations and management of the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program primarily as a result of deliberations by the National Research Council's review, and to a lesser extent other reviews of the Program or its various components. The overview lays out in an organized manner responses to concerns voiced by reviewers, concerns that have helped to focus our attention in strengthening the scientific and administrative bases of our long-term, national endeavor. I look forward to seeing recommendations for further improvement of our activities. Sincerely, Edward Martinko, Ph.D. Director Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program [8205] cc: Robert J. Huggett, AA/R&D [8101] H. Hatthew Bills, OMMSQA [8201] Rick Linthurst, EMAP-Center Jay Messer, AREAL-RTP Sidney Draggan, EMAP-HQ [8205]

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--> Précis As you know, the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program's (EMAP) scientific and managerial foundations have evolved dramatically and demonstrably over the course of the past five years. These important changes are in response to research findings within the program and to the National Research Council's (NRC) review. This evolution has caused some misunderstandings about what has and what has not been altered. As you finalize your review of the EMAP, the NRC Committee staff and I believed that it would be useful to summarize the changes made in the Program attributable to the written reviews and discussions with the NRC Committee. I have organized into categories what I believe are the important changes that represent areas of expressed NRC interest. Within each category, I have attempted to describe what has changed or what is changing. I believe our actions are consistent with the specific comments or recommendations of the Committee. As the categories are not completely independent, there is some duplication in the statement of actions and changes. I hope you will find this summary useful in preparing the final report on EMAP. The overview categories include: Indicator Development; Sampling Design; Trend Detection; Landscapes; Analysis of EMAP Data, particularly Estuaries, and Publication of Results; Information Management; Assessment, Integration and Coordination; Cause and Effect Relationships; Program Management; Involvement of Scientific Community and Peer Reviews; and Inter- and Intra-Agency Cooperation.

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--> Selected EMAP Changes Occurring From 1992 To The Present Indicator Development EMAP instituted an investigator-initiated indicator development research grants program. This grants program is independent of the activities of the EMAP's individual Resource Groups. The amount invested was $3.0M in Fiscal Year (FY) 1994 and $4.0M is anticipated in FY 1995. Currently, we have revised and completed the Program's indicator development strategy to ensure a consistent approach to indicator identification, testing and validation, and incorporation into the monitoring program. The need for conceptual models to drive the indicator selection process is specifically emphasized and all Resource Groups are re-evaluating their models for a review within the next twelve months. A permanent Indicator Development Coordinator has been appointed this year. Also, we have selected and defined common environmental values for all Resource Groups to promote program integration. There is still considerable work to do, however, on the indicators and measurements necessary to quantify those values. This work will continue over the next few years before significant progress in quantification capability is expected. The Committee expressed concern over the variability of the indicators within EMAP-Estuaries, Surface Waters and Forests. In response, each of these Resource Groups is now closely evaluating the variability associated with all indicators collected to date in each of their regional studies. After completion, these results will be examined closely by external, independent scientists to determine if the approach is viable. These reviews will be conducted through the mail primarily with panel reviews scheduled as deemed necessary. EMAP-Surface Waters is supporting research on both lake and stream indicators through eight cooperative agreements with universities and under two agreements with Federal agencies. Specifically for EMAP-Estuaries, the following changes have been made or initiated: EMAP-Estuaries has developed, and will be publishing, an explicit conceptual model to enhance direction of its indicator research program; to improve capabilities to explain its approach; and, to provide integration across multiple estuarine Provinces. EMAP-Estuaries is re-examining fish trawl, tissue contaminant, and pathology surveys as viable and reliable indicators. We are pursuing a joint research program with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to re-evaluate these indicators and field protocols in 1995-1996. All routine monitoring has ended in 1994 so that these resources could be invested in data analyses and for further indicator development. Indicator development and testing in the estuarine systems will be the primary effort for 1995 and beyond;

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--> This Resource Group is working through Interagency Agreements with the National Biological Survey (NBS) and the National Wetlands Inventory to examine the utility of various remotely-sensed indicators with regard to wetlands, submerged aquatic vegetation beds, and offshore (that is, nearshore ocean) chlorophyll concentrations. The group has developed a Cooperative Agreement with the Marine Resource Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida to develop indicators of ecosystem function with special emphasis on productivity and eutrophication. Results will be forthcoming, however, within approximately two years; The group is examining the validity of the Benthic Index from multiple perspectives: geographic applicability to the Northeast, West Coast, and South Florida; the use of weighting factors in the construction of the Index and the sensitivity of the index to these weightings; and, the construction of National paradigms using benthic indicators (in addition to the regional indexes now developed). Work on the East and Gulf Coasts will be complete by 1996. These results will be used to determine the utility, stability and reliability of a Benthic Index; The group is conducting research at the Gulf Breeze Laboratory and under an Interagency Agreement with NBS to evaluate and separate the potential causes of observed fish pathology. The Interagency Agreement examines the response of macrophage aggregates to environmental stresses (for example, contaminants and hypoxia) through rearing studies and investigations of the role of macrophage aggregates in the development of neoplasia. Results will be used to assist in the selection of additional indicators of fish stress in the field; EMAP-Estuaries supports investigator-initiated research through portions of nine Cooperative Agreements with the University of Rhode Island at Narragansett, Rhode Island; the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in Wilmington, North Carolina; the Marine Resources Research Institute in Charleston, South Carolina; the Marine Research Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida (two Cooperative Agreements); the Skidaway Institute for Oceanography in Savannah, Georgia; the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Biloxi, Mississippi; and, the University of Mississippi, in Oxford. In addition, the group has supported a student grant for investigator-initiated research at the University of South Carolina's Department of Marine Sciences - Baruch Institute; and The group is conducting a detailed analysis of its demonstration projects in the Virginian and Louisianian Provinces to determine alternatives for measuring estuarine condition. These activities involve EMAP personnel, university researchers representative of the areas of investigation, other EPA and NOAA personnel, and State resource agency researchers. All of these estuarine enhancements are expected to facilitate the design of a national estuarine monitoring program, the selection of indicators to meet the objectives of such a program and the data analysis capabilities needed to document with confidence estuarine condition, nationally.

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--> For EMAP-Forests, the following indicator changes have been addressed: Currently, EMAP-Forests is early in the process of reviewing the forest ecological condition indicators chosen and tested, to date. Complete analyses are not expected for eight to twelve months. The number of indicators has been increased to fourteen in regional pilots in response to NRC concerns that the indicators chosen are related only to productivity and that more indicators should be chosen and tested carefully; The Program will not expand into additional States until existing demonstration projects are evaluated more fully, as recommended by the NRC. These evaluations are currently underway, but will again, take eight to twelve months for completion; and Attention is being focused on development of specific conceptual models driving indicator selection, as proposed in the indicator strategy and as recommended. Sampling Design EMAP has increased involvement of university statisticians and the monitoring research community in the further development, and evaluation, of the EMAP Statistical Design through ten nationally-competed Cooperative Research Agreements, totaling $0.80M in FY 1994; these will continue in 1995 and 1996. The EMAP Design Group has developed over the past three years improved implementation strategies and frameworks for sampling estuaries, lakes, streams, and the Great Lakes addressing statistical issues identified by external review committees. We have conducted comparisons of the statistical efficiency of alternative lake and stream survey sampling designs for estimation of status and trends, verifying that there is more information to be gained by sampling more sites than repeat sampling at a single site. EMAP policy has been changed to routinely provide an enhanced sample grid to States and to university cooperators who wish to sample more intensively. The States have benefited directly, particularly in EMAP-Estuaries and EMAP-Surface Waters. Each year, we have experienced increasing extramural interest in transferring technology related to reliable and cost-effective sampling protocols. EMAP-Estuaries and EMAP-Surface Waters have now progressed to the point where they are examining the use of multivariate statistical tools to characterize multiple indicators through multi-dimensional indices. This is an area for future investment in extramural and intramural investigations that will be proposed for funding in 1996. EMAP Design and Statistics has funded a Cooperative Research Agreement with the University of Wyoming to study the issue of using EMAP data with non-probability-based data. This research will hopefully add a model-based element to the Program to ensure more complete use of existing

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--> data. This design-based research is coming now to a close and after the results are evaluated, the next studies will be designed to address this complex statistical issue. We have made an investment in university research designed to achieve integration of spatial statistics and Geographic Information Systems for efficient analysis of ecological monitoring information. For example, we are working with Iowa State University in this area; they are funded at $0.91M. EMAP Design and Statistics has created an ad hoc Geospatial Monitoring Working Group with senior statisticians working at other Federal agencies to explore coordination of surveys by EPA-EMAP, the Soil Conservation Service's National Resource Inventory, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service, the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Inventory and Analysis, the National Biological Survey, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey's National Wetlands Status and Trends Program. The overall goal of this effort is to seek some common ground for survey designs. Currently, there is no target date for a joint report on progress. The NRC suggested that some plots in forests—an issue applicable to all the resource groups—should be visited each year. While there is debate by the statisticians about that recommendation, EMAP-Forests has a database with repeat measurements over the last four-years at a large number of sites. We are analyzing these data carefully to assess the benefits to be derived from adopting the recommendation and hope to have analyses complete within one year. EMAP-Forests will work during 1995 to evaluate collected data and to design options for implementing a Forest Monitoring Program. Detection of Trends Intensive analysis of EMAP-Estuaries and EMAP-Surface Waters data was initiated in 1994 to address the issue of the ability of EMAP to detect trends, within which time frames, and of which magnitudes. It does appear that most measurements meet the Data-Quality Objectives of the Program, although all of the analyses will not be complete for several months. The Program generated and advertised a Request for Proposals (RFP) to the National Science Foundation's (NSF) network of Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) and Land-Margin Ecosystems Research (LMER) sites. The objectives of the Request were to stimulate the development and evaluation of: 1) ecological indicators and indices; 2) testable hypotheses relating observed ecological response to natural and anthropogenic stresses; and, 3) models and statistical methods to estimate the status of ecological condition and trends at watershed and regional scales, based on site-specific and probability-based sampling data. Research funded through this announcement will begin in FY 1995. EMAP has funded cooperative studies and grants with intensive site-based sampling programs (see LTER and LMER, above; universities and the U.S. Geological Survey [USGS]) to evaluate the ability to detect trends through individual and combined efforts. Also, these studies are proving useful in terms of identification of indicators and issues relating to extrapolation of site-specific results.

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--> EMAP-Estuaries, EMAP-Surface Waters and the EMAP Design and Statistics Team are funding as well as conducting examinations of the effect of multiple design modifications on the detection of different types of trend functions, including non-linear and step functions. This work will be ongoing and improvements are expected in the near future. EMAP-Estuaries is examining more fully, as recommended, the use of existing data sets from the Virginian Province to evaluate more completely the utility of indicators, the expected level of trend changes that can be expected over decadal time periods for different indicators, and the spatial intensity needed to characterize individual systems. We are concentrating on data sets from the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and Long Island Sound. We will conduct similar analyses with data from the Louisianian Province in 1995-1996 concentrating on data from Apalachicola Bay, Florida; Barataria Bay, Louisiana; and Galveston Bay, Texas. As with EMAP-Estuaries, EMAP-Surface Waters has made increasing use of existing data sets from State, other Federal agency program, and university research efforts to evaluate intensively the variability of proposed indicators relative to detection of trends. For example, for EMAP-Surface Waters, information from the lake trophic condition databases of Maine, Vermont and New York have been used by EMAP-Surface Waters to evaluate trophic state parameters; and, we have used Dartmouth College's database on zooplankton indicators. All of these studies will be on-going in the foreseeable future. Landscapes The original Landscape Characterization Group has been split into two groups. The Landscapes Resource Group is charged with conceptualizing and conducting fundamental as well as applied research on landscape scale indicators (Landscape Ecology) and with validating such indicators for use within the Program. The new Landscape Characterization Coordination Group is tasked with conducting and advancing land cover and land use analyses for use within the Program (and by other interested users). Recently, this year, we underwent a review of the Landscapes Resource Program by a peer review panel and the Agency's Science Advisory Board. Few adjustments are expected at this time. The Landscape Characterization Coordination Group has spearheaded the establishment and continuing development of the new interagency Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium (partners include EPA-EMAP, the GAP Analysis Program, the National Water Quality Assessment Program [NAWQA], the CoastWatch Change Analysis Program, the North American Landscape Characterization Project [includes the National Aeronautics and Space Administration among others], and the EROS Data Center) to provide Thematic Mapper land cover data for the United States. Cooperatively, this group acquired complete Thematic Mapper coverage of the continental United States. Working with this multi-agency group, we plan to produce a national land cover map by the end of 1997.

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--> Analysis of EMAP Data, Particularly Estuaries, and Publication of Results To date, the Program has published approximately sixty-three peer reviewed journal articles, and eighteen book chapters; and, it has full papers in twelve scientific conference proceedings. We have set more stringent criteria for measuring the accomplishments of our Technical Directors and Technical Coordinators including higher expectations for publication of the Program's findings in the peer reviewed, open literature. The publication productivity of the EMAP-Forest Group was of particular concern to the Committee. In response, the Forest Group has published nine recent journal articles and has an additional ten articles to be published in 1995. All of the EMAP's Resource and Coordination Groups have refereed publications as an element of our annual evaluation of their progress. The Program has instituted a Document Tracking System available to all Program participants (but, in particular, to the Program's Executive and Steering Committees) via video text. The Document Tracking System is updated (the current schedule is biannual) to assure better oversight of the quality of vehicles carrying EMAP's scientific and assessment results. The Program has required the Estuaries Resource Group to curtail broadscale monitoring activities and to focus attention on the evaluation of existing data as suggested by the Committee. Indicator testing in the field is still being conducted but not on a regional grid scale. Information Management A peer reviewed, revised Strategic Information Management Plan for EMAP was published in August, 1994. The ''Proof-of-Concept" for the EMAP Data Management System now is completed; and, we have begun to install the operational system for use by EMAP Resource Groups (Estuaries, Forests, and Surface Waters). We should have these all installed by Fall 1994. It will be, however, approximately six months before the complete data sets are available readily to all in the Program as it will take some time for the Resource Groups to populate the new system and to convert their current operations over to the new, uniform system. We have initiated cooperative development efforts with the EPA's Office of Information Management and the National Biological Survey. We are hopeful that these interactions will ensure relatively transparent data transfers in the future. No final agreements, however, have been reached. EMAP-Estuaries, Surface Waters and Forests are changing their approach to information management from a Non-Relational Data Structure to an Agency Standard Relational Database Management Structure using Oracle. Within the next six months, this modification will be complete.

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--> Other resource groups who do not have large field data sets will begin using Oracle now. Also, we are focusing on the interface between our data, ArcInfo, and various statistical analysis packages. These interfaces are partially developed but are not expected to be fully operational for some months. Plans are progressing to make all EMAP data available on the Internet. Tests, to date, have proven successful, only the availability of the validated data sets is slowing the progress in this area. EMAP-Estuaries is developing with NOAA a compatible and efficient data interface tool that will permit wide access to EMAP-Estuaries data and will promote the use of EMAP-Estuaries data in academic and applied research as well as in State and Federal decision making. This interface will be in addition to the Internet interface (as it is expected that all States, for example, will not have necessary Internet options at this time). The NRC recommended that the Forest Group, in particular, should develop a comprehensive Information Management Plan. They have not done so, to date. We will be asking all of the Program's groups to do the same now that the "Program System" is ready to be tested fully. They will follow the overall, published Information Management Strategy. Assessment, Integration and Coordination The Science Advisory Board (SAB) completed its review of the Assessment Framework for EMAP in late 1993 and suggested it be printed for wide distribution—now done. We have established EMAP-Center in North Carolina where we plan to develop a critical mass of in-house and university scientists to focus on integration and assessment of multiple resource data. A competitively-awarded University Partnership Research Agreement with a consortium of universities will be awarded within the next two months to provide additional intellectual leadership in this area. The Partnership Agreement is a novel funding mechanism by which we and the consortium design together a Five-Year Research Plan with the option to renew the agreement for an additional five years, given positive peer reviews of work being done. We do still have the real difficulty of a limited number of in-house positions to fill all of the functions we believe to be important. This problem is beyond the immediate control of the Program, as you know. We have appointed a Senior Scientist, Rick A. Linthurst, Ph.D., as EMAP-Center Director. As you may recall, Rick was one of the originators of the EMAP concept. We have appointed a Chief of Integration and Assessment, Marjorie M. Holland, Ph.D., for the centralized management and coordination of EMAP Technical Coordinators through EMAP-Center. This has improved greatly the coordination of many elements of the Program; nonetheless, much still remains to be done.

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--> EMAP Center has enlisted David Mouat, Ph.D., as a Visiting Scientist to develop a credible and reliable assessment strategy for EMAP. The draft of this document for internal review is expected next month. The Center has initiated planning for the Mid-Atlantic Integrated Assessment (MAIA). This project, to begin in 1995, will examine key design, indicator, integration, and assessment issues. Two studies of particular interest to the NrC will focus on the robustness of the current design at different scales and with various ecological boundaries, and an appraisal of the benefits to be derived from sampling all resources within randomly-chosen watersheds. Currently, as you know, there is in EMAP no obvious relational structure to the individual resource measurement points. Also, studies on the relationships between land use or cover, landscape metrics and resource condition will be a primary area of investigation. We believe the Mid-Atlantic effort will be an important field research activity to benefit all of EMAP. We will work with other agencies, States, our Regional Offices, and the university community to complete these studies. The university work will be awarded competitively. Cause-and-Effect Relationships Need More Focused Planning With the more clearly defined indicator strategy, emphasis on the conceptual models, and clarification of the objectives, I believe we are making progress in this most important area. Over the past six months, EMAP has actively participated in and provided leadership for the development of a new "Integrated Ecosystem Protection Research Program" in the EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD). This research program links EMAP directly with new as well as on-going cause-and-effect research activities in ORD. This final, peer reviewed research strategy will be completed in FY 1995 for implementation in FY 1996. Investigator-initiated cause-and-effect research will play a significant role in this program. Program Management While it has been made clear that the Program continues to experience a substantial staffing shortfall, considerable progress has been made in the conceptualization and subsequent development of the EMAP-Center, at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. A vigorous Director, Rick A. Linthurst, Ph.D, one of the initiators of the Program, has been named. An individual with established credentials within the ecological research and policy communities, Marjorie M. Holland, Ph.D., has been hired as the permanent Chief for Integration and Assessment to provide strong, scientifically-defensible leadership to the Program's Coordination Groups. At the Program's headquarters offices, an individual certified as a Senior Ecologist by the Ecological Society of America, Sidney Draggan, Ph.D., has been appointed to provide staff there, and

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--> in the Ecological Resource and Coordination Groups, with leadership in development of credible science goals and outputs, enhancement of Program policies and procedures (including adoption of a more traditional peer review process), and better attention to and oversight of development of performance mechanisms by the Program. In addition, at the headquarters offices, an individual with a strong background in the ecological sciences, H. Kay Austin, Ph.D., has been enlisted to serve as the Program's permanent Indicators Coordinator as well as its Agency Program Office Liaison (this is, in fact, a superior opportunity since the Agency's Program Offices have considerable interests in indicators; to date, this interest has not been articulated adequately or related to the Program's goals and actual capabilities.) While we believe these steps are moving us in the right direction, we are faced, as yet, with a limitation in needed positions, a problem that is beyond our control. Whenever possible, we are attempting to fill these voids with visiting scientists. Involvement of the Scientific Community and Peer Review As noted earlier, we have instituted an investigator-initiated indicator development research grants program in EMAP. This was administered by the Agency's Office of Exploratory Research through an extensive peer review process. There were nine meritorious proposals related to ecological condition indicator research that have been funded. We have increased involvement of the academic statistics and monitoring research communities in the development of EMAP's statistical design through ten nationally-competed Cooperative Research Agreements, totaling $0.80M in FY 1994. In FY 1994, the Program disseminated a Request for Proposals for studies to be located within the NSF's network of Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) and Land-Margin Ecosystems Research (LMER) sites. The Program solicited proposals for the establishment of a University Partnership Research Agreement to strengthen the Integration, Coordination and Assessment activities of the EMAP-Center. Thirteen proposals were subjected to a traditional peer review process that included independent, anonymous mail reviews as well as panel deliberation by a group of experts in the ecological and ecological risk assessment sciences. We have established peer review policy on a program-wide basis. All of EMAP's Ecological Resource Groups have external, independent peer panels that afford review and guidance to the Program. The Program's past and current associations with the Estuarine Research Federation and the American Statistical Association will stand as the models for external peer review used by the Program's other Ecological Resource Groups, and Coordination Groups.

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--> EMAP Center has awarded four universities with two training grants each to fund graduate students to participate in various parts of the Program. They are expected to do thesis research on topics of mutual interest. The Mid-Atlantic studies will be undertaken with university scientists through competitive awards. Significant increases in the grants program within EPA, including research necessary to advance EMAP concepts, is planned for 1995 and beyond. Inter-Agency and Intra-Agency Cooperation EMAP initiated and funded peer reviewed, Regional EMAP (R-EMAP) projects in all EPA Regions. Two of these projects were summarized at our last meeting with the Committee. Also, full-time appointment of a Program Office Liaison, H. Kay Austin, Ph.D. (from the Agency's Office of Pesticide Programs) and an Interagency Liaison, James K. Andreasen, Ph.D. (from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) has occurred. Presently, we have established more than twenty-five Memoranda of Understanding and Interagency Agreements with nineteen Federal agencies to support cooperative studies and implementation activities. Over the past year, the Program has strengthened its interaction with its current Federal agency partners and has established new relationships with others (for example, a Memorandum of Understanding has been entered into with the National Biological Survey and EMAP is developing new relationships with the USGS's NAWQA). Also, existing Interagency Agreements are being revised to establish the focus of research-based activities with the EPA and implementation-based activities with our partner resource management agencies. The EPA component of EMAP has developed an interagency coordinating group for Statistical Design with NAWQA, the Natural Resources Inventory, the Forest Health Monitoring Program, the National Wetlands Inventory, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Biological Survey; and, it has increased its participation in the Interagency Task Force on Monitoring Water Quality. EMAP-Estuaries is aggressively pursuing the involvement of other Federal agencies (NOAA and NBS), State resource agencies, and national or regional estuarine programs (Gulf of Mexico Program [GOMP], Chesapeake Bay Program [CBP], and National Estuary Programs [NEPs]). To date, five of the twenty-two coastal states have agreed to modify their monitoring programs to incorporate aspects of EMAP, six NEPs have adopted the EMAP approach in toto or in part, and all three large regional programs (CBP, GOMP, and the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority) have adopted or are adopting aspects of the EMAP approach in their monitoring programs. Again, we have increased greatly our participation in the Inter-Governmental Task Force on Monitoring Water Quality. Finally, we have increased our support of the EPA Program Office's monitoring needs in indicator development and development of monitoring designs.

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