What is a National Estuary Program?
The National Estuary Program (NEP) is an Environmental Protection Agency (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 Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP) is one of the NEPs.
The National Estuary Program was established by Congress through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1987.
EPA provides annual funding, national guidance, and technical assistance to the local NEPs. The NEP is a non-regulatory program established by Congress that improves the waters, habitats, and living resources.
Each NEP develops and implements a long-term plan referred to as a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) based on local priorities to guide their efforts. The NEPs involve community members in the decision-making process.
Expanding the NEP Role: the 2000 Reauthorization
In the first 13 years of the NEP, 18 Management Conferences had been established and completed CCMPs for different estuaries around the country; another 10 NEPs were in development but had not been federally approved. BTNEP was one of the initial 18 NEPs to be established. With an already established track-record of success and growing demand, Congress reauthorized and updated the NEP in the Estuaries and Clean Waters Act of 2000. This reauthorization expanded the role of the Management Conference to develop and implement CCMPs.
Enacted in 2016 with bi-partisan support, Public Law 114-162 authorizes $26 million per year to support the NEP from 2016 through 2020. The new law guarantees that not less than 80 percent of each year’s appropriation must be used for the work of the 28 individual programs around the nation, in local communities and on-the-ground projects from Tampa Bay to Puget Sound.
EPA’s administrative expenses are not to exceed 5 percent of the total amount appropriated and not less than 15 percent must be used for grants to address new challenges facing our estuaries, including sea grass loss that impact commercial fisheries and harmful algae blooms that limit recreational use of our waterways. The authorized funding and formula is consistent with base funding provided to the NEPs since 2008. The engrossed (complete) version of the 2016 Reauthorization is HERE.