The National Estuary Program after Four Years: A Report to Congress
Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water
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The National Estuary Program after Four Years: A Report to Congress is a status report on the National Estuary Program (NEP) and the seventeen management conferences that are part of the NEP. The NEP was established in 1987 as part of the Clean Water Act amendments. The program, starting with six estuaries, has grown to include seventeen Management Conferences along the East, West, and Gulf of Mexico coastlines. Two of the original estuaries have completed their missions of producing Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plans (CCMPs) and are carrying out their plans with the support of state and local government and private citizens. The experiences gained by these two Management Conferences during the development of their CCMPs have provided valuable lessons; their work will continue to serve as a model for others. Just as the early NEP built upon lessons learned in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay Programs, the NEP will continue to evolve as new information and technology are developed. This Report is divided into six parts: Part I - Meeting a Need: The National Estuary Program outlines the NEP approach to managing estuarine ecosystems. Part II - Understanding Estuaries: The Key to Better Management describes how estuaries are characterized and tells what is being learned through cooperative efforts. Part III - Managing Estuaries: the Best Methods presents some of the management actions being developed to address problems defined through characterization: these actions are the core of the CCMP. Part IV- Assessing the NEP: What Has Been Learned describes how the NEP processes and philosophy have advanced our knowledge of estuaries and estuarine management. Part V - Looking to the Future: Trends and Needs addresses areas where new efforts are being directed in light of our increasing understanding of estuarine management. Part VI - Moving Ahead: The NEP Projects summarizes the progress being made in each of the seventeen NEP projects. The NEP is a relatively new program in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Water. It is administered by the Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds in partnership with EPA Regional Offices. The NEP addresses a major challenge - restoring and protecting estuaries of national significance. Although it will probably take decades to meet this challenge, the NEP has already taken important steps forward and is on the way toward meeting its goals.