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You might think that going to the beach wouldn't require a multimillion-dollar federal grant program and the use of sophisticated systems. You'd be wrong. The Environmental Protection Agency's Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health program, at www.epa.gov/waterscience/beaches, plans to distribute $10 million this year to the 35 states with beaches.

Since Congress passed the Beach Act in 2000, EPA has issued about $32 million for the project, which forms part of the Clean Beach Program. States have used the grant funds to create Web sites such as mainehealthybeaches.org and www.health.ri.gov/environment/beaches. Wisconsin officials used the funds to identify the state's 173 public beaches and collect data about them using geographic information systems.

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