September 23, 2022

U.S. Senate Passes Resolution Designating September 17-24 National Estuaries Week

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse today announced that the Senate has designated September 17 through September 24, 2022 as National Estuaries Week.  Whitehouse led 22 of his Senate colleagues in introducing the resolution calling for the protection and restoration of America’s estuaries.  The Senate agreed to the resolution unanimously.

“For Rhode Islanders, the Narragansett Bay estuary is the beating heart of our economy and the backdrop of daily life.  The Bay sustains many of our biggest industries from fishing to tourism and hospitality,” said Whitehouse, who serves as co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus.  “I’m glad to lead my Senate colleagues in recognizing the importance of healthy estuaries to our environment and way of life, and I will continue to support efforts to study, preserve, and protect these important resources.”

“Nearly 40% of the U.S. population live on or near an estuary.  It is our goal that 100% of the people of the Narragansett Bay region benefit from our local estuaries in some way,” said Mike Gerel, Executive Director of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program.

“Estuaries are small places with a big impact on our economy, protecting coastal communities from storms and floods, sequestering carbon, and providing recreational opportunities,” said Daniel Hayden, President of Restore America’s Estuaries.  “This bipartisan resolution shows Congressional commitment to protect and restore estuaries throughout our country.”

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.

Last year, Whitehouse’s bill to reauthorize the National Estuary Program at nearly double its previous annual funding levels became law.  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.

A PDF copy of the resolution is available here.

Meaghan McCabe, (401) 453-5294

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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921