June 30, 2010

EPW Committee Approves Re-Authorization of Estuary Program Introduced by Senator Whitehouse

Conservation Program was First Established by Senator John Chafee; has Protected Narragansett Bay for more than Twenty Years

Washington, DC – The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today approved Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s legislation to re-authorize the National Estuary Program, which was first established in 1987 by Senator John Chafee to protect and restore estuarine habitats threatened by pollution and overdevelopment. Authorization for this important program expired last year, compromising the protection programs in place for estuaries of national significance, including the Narragansett Bay.

The legislation approved today would increase the funding authorization for this important program, from $35 million to $75 million per year. This funding would allow EPA to expand the program to include new estuaries, and, if fully funded, would also boost funding for estuaries already in the program. For instance, the Narragansett Bay estuary program could expect to receive about $1.25 million – more than twice the funding currently allotted.

“In Rhode Island, our economic health depends largely on the health of our estuaries – from our commercial and recreational fishing industries to tourism and sight seeing. These fertile and scenic habitats are a crucial part of our state, and I’m determined to carry on the legacy of Senator Chafee by preserving them,” said Whitehouse.

The National Estuary Program, which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), originally designated six estuaries of national importance to take part in the program. Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay was one of these original six, bringing millions of dollars in federal funding to the state over the years. Across the country, Estuary Programs have restored and protected over 1 million acres of estuarine ecosystems in the past decade.

The re-authorization approved today would also require each estuary’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) to include risks to the estuary caused by climate change, and to identify adaptation measures to mitigate those risks. This requirement will complement Rhode Island’s Climate Risk Reduction Act of 2010, signed into law this spring.


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