September 16, 2019

Whitehouse Announces September 14-21 is National Estuaries Week

RI’s Narragansett Bay is largest estuary in New England

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse today announced that the U.S. Senate has declared September 14 through September 21, 2019 as National Estuaries Week in a resolution that was unanimously approved last month.  Sponsored by Whitehouse and 26 Senate colleagues, the bipartisan legislation recognizes the importance of coastal and estuarine regions to the national economy, and reaffirms the Senate’s support for protecting and restoring these vital resources. 

“Life and work in Rhode Island revolve around the Narragansett Bay estuary,” said Whitehouse, who serves as co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus.  “This National Estuaries Week, the Senate has recommitted to protecting unique estuarine regions like our own treasured Bay.”  Whitehouse sponsored legislation to reauthorize the National Estuaries Program, which was signed into law in 2016. 

An estuary is a partially enclosed, coastal body of water where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the ocean.  Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay in 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.

Rhode Island has a long history of working to support healthy estuaries.  In 1987, Rhode Island Senator John Chafee established the National Estuaries Program 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.

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