WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) announced the reauthorization of the National Estuary Program (NEP) as one of the last acts of the 116th Congress, providing significant aid to restore Louisiana’s coastal ecosystem and combat environmental threats.
“Louisiana’s coastline is vital to protecting our communities, businesses and wildlife that help our state flourish,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Reauthorizing the National Estuary Program ensures Louisiana has the resources it needs to fortify our coastal resiliency.”
Under the Protect and Restore America’s Estuaries Act, annual funding for the NEP is nearly doubled to $50 million per year from 2022-2026. The Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP) could receive as much as $1 million annually under the new law.
The program funds crucial research and grants for local conservation partners in the BTNEP to revitalize the ecosystem and support businesses and residents working to withstand land loss.
BTNEP engages with Louisiana’s coastal communities to protect resources critical for tourism, commerce, storm protection, clean water, and marine-based food supply such as fisheries and aquaculture.
Estuaries around the country face increasing threats from devastating storms, pollution and coastal erosion. BTNEP works across federal, state and local levels to identify vulnerabilities, recommend actions and seek innovative solutions to protect life, property and commerce.
The reauthorization extends a competitive program for individual NEPs to address sea level rise and loss of wetlands. It also expands selection criteria for competitive awards and enhances management conferences to include discussing the effects of extreme weather events, coastal resiliency, stormwater runoff and accelerated land loss.
The NEP was created in 1987 under Section 320 of the Clean Water Act. The program includes 28 individual estuaries and watersheds and represents 29 states in the continental United States and San Juan Bay, Puerto Rico.
The Protect and Restore America’s Estuaries Act was unanimously approved by the Senate and signed into law on January 13.