09.24.21

U.S. Senate Designates September 19-25 National Estuaries Week

Whitehouse bill to double funding for National Estuary Program became law in January

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse today announced that the U.S. Senate has designated September 19 through September 25, 2021 as National Estuaries Week in a resolution unanimously approved earlier this week. The resolution, sponsored by Whitehouse and seventeen colleagues from both sides of the aisle, recognizes the importance of coastal and estuarine regions to the national economy and reaffirms the Senate’s commitment to protecting and restoring the important natural resources.

“Our treasured Narragansett Bay estuary is at the center of everything we do in Rhode Island, and I’m working hard to bring more resources home to protect it,” said Whitehouse, who serves as co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus. “This National Estuaries Week, the Senate recommits to the stewardship of our nation’s unique, productive estuarine environments.”

Whitehouse’s legislation to reauthorize the National Estuary Program at nearly double its previous annual funding levels became law in January. Rhode Island Senator John Chafee established the National Estuary Program in 1987 to protect and restore estuarine habitats threatened by pollution, overdevelopment, and other harms. Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay was one of the original six estuaries in the program, which has brought millions of dollars in federal funding to the state over the years.

“Estuaries benefit everyone, no matter where you live,” said Mike Gerel, Executive Director of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program. “Fish on your table or fishing line, birds gilding high overhead, jobs in your community, and public parks along the coast exist because of estuaries.”

An estuary is a partially enclosed, coastal body of water where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the ocean. Narragansett Bay is the largest estuary in New England.

Estuarine regions of the United States contribute considerably to the national economy. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, estuary regions cover only 13 percent of the land area of the continental United States, but make up nearly half of the country’s economic output.

Estuaries currently face considerable threats. It is estimated that the United States lost more than half of the wetlands that existed in the 13 Colonies by the 1980s. In addition, many bays that once constituted important fisheries are now considered “dead zones” filled with nutrient pollution, chemical wastes, harmful algae, and marine debris.

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