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NAtional Estuary Programs

Estuaries are places where rivers meet the sea.

Estuaries are critical to the health of coastal environments and to our enjoyment of them.

There are twenty-eight estuaries in the National Estuary Program (NEP).

National Estuary Program brochure

Florida has four National Estuary Programs, more than any other state in the nation:

Sarasota Bay Estuary Program

Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program

Indian River Lagoon

Tampa Bay Estuary Program

The National Estuary Program (NEP) was established under the 1987 Clean Water Act Amendments. It is a unique voluntary program that operates through partnerships with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other public and private sector entities. Each NEP operates via an inclusive, collaborative decision-making process to deliver on-the-ground results, making the NEP a leading model of watershed management.

EPA's National Estuary Program was established by Congress in 1987 to improve the quality of estuaries of national importance. The Clean Water Act Section 320 directs EPA to develop plans for attaining or maintaining water quality in an estuary. This includes protection of public water supplies and the protection and propagation of a balanced, indigenous population of shellfish, fish, and wildlife, and allows recreational activities, in and on water, requires that control of point and non-point sources of pollution to supplement existing controls of pollution. In several cases, more than one State is participating in a National Estuary Program. Each program establishes a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan to meet the goals of Section 320.

EPA’s National Estuary Program is proud of its progress and has had many successes. The NEPs have succeeded because:

  • they focus on the watershed
  • use science to inform decision-making
  • emphasize collaborative problem solving
  • involve the public.

The successes of the National Estuary Program are largely a result of the programs’ ability to develop long term, sustainable finance strategies.


The National Estuary Program in Action – SBEP success highlights

A broad range of issues are being addressed by the National Estuary Programs (NEPs) nationwide. Their many success stories demonstrate the significant work being done, and showcase how the NEPs implement the Clean Water Act in Ways that are Effective, Efficient, Collaborative, and Adaptive. 

Click on the following pdfs to learn more about the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program successes :

Creating Artificial Reefs.pdf

Reducing Nutrient Enrichment.pdf