Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
San Francisco, Calif. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced an unprecedented investment of $132 million from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) over the next five years for important work to protect and restore estuaries of national significance, including three in California.
This influx will fund projects to address climate resilience, prioritize equity, and manage other key water quality and habitat challenges across 28 estuaries along the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts and in Puerto Rico.
In California, the San Francisco Bay-Delta, Morro Bay, and Santa Monica Bay National Estuary Programs will each receive up to $4.5 million over five years to protect and restore water quality and habitat.
"Protecting the water quality of these three incredibly important California estuaries — the San Francisco Bay-Delta, Morro Bay and Santa Monica Bay – not only defends critical habitats, but protects the quality of life and economic foundations of our communities," said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. "These investments of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds will build the resilience of California's iconic coastal communities facing climate change impacts such as sea level rise."
The San Francisco Estuary Partnership has made decades of environmental progress under the Estuary Blueprint through leveraging the resources and expertise of agencies, academia, scientists, environmental advocates and communities. The newly updated Blueprint expands the scope of planning for estuary-wide restoration with actions that will build shoreline resilience and weave in social equity considerations to improve both environmental and community health outcomes.
San Francisco Estuary Partnership Director Caitlin Sweeney said the funding will quickly be put to use: "With the newly updated San Francisco Estuary Blueprint, our region is ready to direct this new funding to immediate action to deliver climate adaptation, community engagement and equity initiatives, supported by hundreds of collaborating organizations and agencies."
Morro Bay on California's Central Coast is a resource for local communities and families from across California, many of whom have a long-standing tradition of escaping the summer inland heat to enjoy the cool bay breeze and waters. Morro Bay and its surrounding watershed host important habitat for eel grass, oysters, sea otters and steelhead.
"BIL funding will provide an invaluable resource for the Morro Bay National Estuary Program to implement projects that address local environmental issues and have long-lasting benefits to our coastal communities," said Melodie Grubbs, Executive Director of the Morro Bay National Estuary Program. "We look forward to leveraging strong partnerships, prioritizing multi-benefit projects that address climate threats, and building meaningful relationships with underserved communities."
Santa Monica Bay
Santa Monica Bay draws over 50 million visitors to its beaches every year. The Santa Monica Bay National Estuary Program is at the forefront of working with local partners to protect coastal resources such as kelp forests and beaches for the benefit of land and marine habitats as well as for the public.
"This guidance is a major step toward Santa Monica Bay realizing on the ground protections from the very real impacts of a changing climate, including sea level rise," said Tom Ford, Chair of the Association of National Estuary Programs, Director of the Santa Monica Bay National Estuary Program, and CEO of The Bay Foundation. "Funding from the BIL will enable our 28 National Estuary Programs to accelerate efforts to preserve and improve the health of our iconic coastal waters, especially in underserved communities."
National Estuary Program
The National Estuary Program (NEP) is a place-based program that, since 1987, has funded projects that restore water quality and ecological integrity across 28 estuaries of national significance. The BIL funding will accelerate work on Comprehensive Conservation Management Plans, which are structured frameworks for protecting and restoring estuary resources and meeting water quality needs.
Additionally, the NEP has been at the forefront of addressing climate impacts and environmental justice disparities in their watersheds. The National Estuary Program is part of President Biden's Justice40 Initiative, which aims to deliver at least 40% of the overall benefits from certain federal investments to underserved communities.
The EPA's announcement includes guidance for NEP-funded programs across the U.S. on how EPA will administer program funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The guidance provides key information, including equity strategies, reporting requirements, and flexibility to the NEPs to address the priorities in their watersheds that are defined by local, city, state, federal, private and non-profit stakeholders. EPA expects NEP programs to accelerate Comprehensive Conservation Management Plans implementation, develop strategies and practices that enable these program areas to be resilient and adapt to changing climate conditions, and make investments that ensure water quality and habitat benefits of this program are realized by disadvantaged communities.