September 21, 2023

U.S. Senate Passes Resolution Designating September 16-23 National Estuaries Week

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) today announced that the Senate has designated September 16 through September 23, 2023 as National Estuaries Week.  Whitehouse and Cassidy led a bipartisan group of 27 Senate colleagues in introducing the resolution calling for the protection and restoration of America’s estuaries.

“For Rhode Islanders, the Narragansett Bay estuary is the center of daily life and our economy,” said Whitehouse, who serves as co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus.  “As estuaries across the country face increased climate-related threats, I am pleased to join my colleagues to recognize and recommit to protecting our nation’s estuarine environments.”

“Louisiana works hard to protect and rebuild our eroding coastline which is an economic and communal lifeline for our state,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Protecting our estuaries is essential to preserve Louisiana’s way of life.”

“National Estuaries week is a celebration of all the benefits coasts provide – from commercial and recreational fisheries to protecting coastal communities from storms and flooding,” said Daniel Hayden, President of Restore America’s Estuaries. “We appreciate the overwhelming bi-partisan support for this resolution and the continued recognition of estuaries as a critical resource for our nation.”

“Estuaries are wonderous and dynamic places that connect land, sea, and countless ways of life,” said Darcy Young, Interim Executive Director of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program.  “Wildlife, fisheries, economies, and communities flourish with healthy estuaries.”

“Setting aside this week to appreciate estuaries is an important reminder of how we all benefit when they are healthy and productive,” said Caitlin Chaffee, manager of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. “Estuaries are the living heart of coastal communities. They are more than places to recreate, they fuel our economy and protect our health and well-being.”

Whitehouse’s bill to reauthorize the National Estuary Program at nearly double its previous annual funding levels became law in January 2021.  The late 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 is the largest estuary in New England and 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.

An estuary is a partially enclosed, coastal body of water where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the ocean.  Estuaries provide key ecosystem services that protect human health and safety, including water filtration, flood control, shoreline stabilization, and erosion prevention.  They also protect coastal communities during increasingly frequent hurricanes and other extreme weather events.

Estuarine regions of the United States contribute disproportionately to the national economy.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, estuary regions cover only 13 percent of the land area of the United States, but contain nearly 40 percent of the population and make up almost half of the country’s economic output.

Estuaries face ongoing threats.  By the 1980s, it is estimated that the United States had lost more than half of the wetlands that existed in the original 13 colonies.  Additionally, bays across our country that once served as important fisheries are now considered “dead zones” filled with algal blooms, chemical waste, nutrient pollution, and marine debris.

A PDF copy of the resolution is available here.

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921