EPA releases guidance on how the agency will administer the program
July 27, 2022
BOSTON (July 27, 2022) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will invest $132 million from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the National Estuaries Program (NEP). This unprecedented investment will provide each of New England’s estuaries of national significance with up to $4.5 Million over the next five years to fund important work to protect and restore the estuaries.
New England’s estuaries of national significance include: Buzzards Bay, Casco Bay, Long Island Sound, Massachusetts Bay, Narragansett Bay, and the Piscataqua Region Estuaries.
“I’m engaging directly with communities who will benefit from the work we will do thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the message is clear – it’s about time,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Communities have been waiting for far too long. This funding is an important investment in equity, clean water and resilience for some of our most treasured water resources.”
“Estuaries, where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the ocean, are among some of the most productive environments on earth,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “With these funds, our six New England National Estuary Programs will not only help to address key water quality and habitat challenges, but address climate resilience and prioritize equity as well, helping our most vulnerable communities.”
The National Estuary Program (NEP) is a place-based program that, since 1987, has funded projects that restore water quality and ecological integrity across 28 estuaries of national significance. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding will accelerate work on Comprehensive Conservation Management Plans, which are structured frameworks for protecting and restoring estuary resources and meeting water quality needs. Additionally, NEPs have been at the forefront of addressing climate impacts and environmental justice disparities in their watersheds. The National Estuary Program is part of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to deliver at least 40% of the overall benefits from certain Federal investments to underserved communities.
Today’s announcement includes guidance for NEPs on how EPA will administer program funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The guidance provides key information, including equity strategies, reporting requirements, and flexibility to the NEPs to address the priorities in their watersheds that are defined by local, city, state, federal, private and non-profit stakeholders. EPA expects NEPs to accelerate Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan implementation, develop strategies and practices that enable these program areas to be resilient and adapt to changing climate conditions, and make investments that ensure water quality and habitat benefits of this program are realized by disadvantaged communities.
The National Estuary Program (NEP) is an EPA place-based program to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance. Currently, 28 estuaries located along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts and in Puerto Rico are designated as estuaries of national significance. Each NEP focuses within a study area that includes the estuary and surrounding watershed. The NEP is a non-regulatory program established by Congress and was authorized by section 320 of the Clean Water Act in 1987.
The NEPs are located in a variety of institutional settings, including state and local agencies, universities and individual nonprofits. In overseeing and managing the national program, EPA provides annual funding, national guidance, and technical assistance to the local NEPs. The 28 NEPs develop and implement Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plans (CCMPs), which are long-term plans that contain actions to address water quality and living resource challenges and priorities. The NEP challenges and priorities are defined by local, city, state, federal, private, and non-profit stakeholders.
Each NEP has a Management Conference (MC) that consists of diverse stakeholders and uses a collaborative, consensus-building approach to implement the CCMP. Moreover, each MC ensures that the CCMP is uniquely tailored to the local environmental conditions and is based on local input, thereby supporting local priorities.