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News and Resources

National Estuary Program has potent perch - March 8, 2012

Right now, no matter where I go, the atmosphere feels politically charged. But last week, in Washington, D.C., at least one program being discussed received strong bipartisan support: the National Estuary Program. It's clear clean water is not a partisan issue.

Protecting our waterways is our shared civic responsibility. No matter what side of the political fence you're on, we all not only enjoy, but depend on, the benefits of clean water. Clean water is necessary for our quality of life.

Established under the Clean Water Act, the National Estuary Program (NEP) was created by Congress in 1987. The Maryland Coastal Bays Program was inducted into this non-regulatory program in 1996. It is one of 28 such programs, created to help protect the most biologically and economically significant coastal areas in the United States.

The natural resources of our estuaries support boating, fishing, swimming, hunting, tourism, and agriculture that sustain local economies.

Each NEP, including the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, is guided by a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan.

The development of our CCMP was a collaborative process involving citizens, farmers, fishers, developers, and local, state, and federal agencies. Diverse work groups formed to address four conservation categories: water quality, recreation and navigation, fish and wildlife, and growth and economic development. This stakeholder-driven, bottom-up approach to planning is a collaborative process that requires focus, determination, and cooperation.

Working together with the community to address the challenges specific to a local watershed is a hallmark of the National Estuary Program.

One of the strengths of NEPs is their ability to leverage funding. On average, for every $1 in federal funding received, local NEPs raise an additional $15 to support the work they are doing in local watersheds.

The Maryland Coastal Bays leverages 18:1. That's $18, cash or in-kind, for every $1 received from the federal government. These dollars go directly to support conservation, restoration, research, outreach, and education in our watershed -- to protect Assawoman, Isle of Wight, Newport, Sinepuxent, and Chincoteague Bays.

Volunteers in our community assist with water quality monitoring, horseshoe crab surveys, counting and banding colonial waterbirds that nest on islands in the coastal bays, assessing the diversity and distribution of reptile and amphibian populations, clean-up events which result in the removal of thousands of pounds of marine debris, planting trees and marsh grasses to restore native habitats, and more.

Current MCBP projects include Bishopville Dam modification and wetland restoration to allow fish passage for river herring and white perch to upstream habitat for spawning; the implementation of a Nutrient Reduction Action Strategy, along with a range of user groups, to ensure water quality improvement; the transformation of a former waste dump to a public kayak launch on Ayres Creek; the restoration of Skimmer Island to improve critical nesting habitat for state-endangered bird species including black skimmers and royal terns; the development of a plan to restore Hudson Branch, a tributary of Newport Bay, located in Berlin; the preservation of 600 acres of valuable habitat in the watershed; the creation of "green jobs" and workforce development through the Coastal Stewards program; and assistance with the development of an Environmental Literacy Plan for Worcester County schools.

If you're interested in learning more about the National Estuary Program, visit www.epa.gov/nep. If you'd like to be involved with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, contact us at mcbp@mdcoastal bays.org.

Samis is education coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.


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