First of all, I want to welcome all of you here this morning for an occasion that's very important to our country in the symbolism and the actual accomplishment to this legislation.
One of the difficult questions that I had to face as Governor of Georgia was how to preserve our inland wetlands from inevitable and very rapid destruction. And when I sent Congress an environmental message earlier this year, I pointed out that every year we lose 300,000 acres of these extremely valuable component parts of our national ecology.
House of Representatives bill 2817, which has been supported very strongly by Congressman Bob Edgar, authorizes the expansion and the completion of the Tinicum National Environmental Center in Pennsylvania, on the outskirts of Philadelphia. This is the culmination of about 15 years of work by local people, as well as the Members of Congress. in both House and Senate.
The pressure is great around any urban center to expand the industrial development into areas of great natural importance. And city dwellers, particularly, need to have near their own homes-particularly those that are not financially able to travel far and wide--a part of the Earth and environment as it was originally granted to us for our stewardship. I think this legislation goes a long way toward achieving that end.
With continued local support that I'm sure will be realized, Tinicum will become an exceptional wildlife preservation. Part of it has already been changed in form. This will be restored. And this will be a good experimental area to learn how to restore other similar regions around our country. It's also a place where Philadelphians can find 'a moment of solitude and rest, a part of life that I remember with great relish--[laughter]--and miss very much.
But I'm thankful that this is an action that Congress has taken, and I'd like now, at this moment, to sign legislation, House of Representatives bill 2817, which will preserve the Tinicum area near Philadelphia.
[At this point, the President signed H.R. 2817 into law.]
The other legislation, coincidentally, has been pursued aggressively by Members of the House and Senate from Delaware to New York, but it also encompasses a very serious problem for our whole country. This is House resolution act 4297, which amends the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act. One of the most severe threats to the heavily used and very valuable seashore areas, particularly in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, has been the problem of ocean dumping, where-historically, when populations were low and the effluent was fairly well small in volume, dumping of city waste in the ocean was an acceptable practice because the ocean currents could disseminate it without destroying the beauty of the coastline.
But recently, Governors such as Governor Byrne in New Jersey and others have recognized, along with Congress, the great threat to the beauty of life and the very valuable tourist resource of the damage to the ocean beaches because of city wastes that were washed up on those beaches. In this bill, Congress has put into law the policy of this administration to end the dumping of sewage sludge into the ocean by December 31, 1981. This will provide large cities with an opportunity to find landfill sites and other alternative measures for eliminating or disposing of their wastes.
We've already made some progress, but we still have a very serious problem. And I particularly want to compliment Chairman John Murphy of the House Merchant Marine Committee, Jennings Randolph in the Senate, Representative Bill Hughes of New Jersey, and Governor Byrne, who's represented here this morning by Jean Byrne, his wife, for their innovative and very aggressive, sometimes discouraging work to control this practice.
I believe this demonstrates the commitment of Congress and the administration, as well, to protect and preserve one of mankind's most precious possessions-our oceans and our seashores. So, congratulations to you Members of Congress for this very fine work. And I now sign House of Representatives bill number 4297, which will control the dumping of municipal and other wastes into the oceans, which destroy our national seashores.
[At this point, the President signed H.R. 4297 into law.]
I think the importance of this legislation is indicated by the degree of commitment and the intense interest that's shown in it, particularly along the eastern seaboard, where population explosions have put special pressure on the beauty of our surroundings. And I again want to thank all of you for being here and for making it possible, through this ceremony, to dramatize this tremendous step forward.
Thank you again.