The Estuary Restoration Act

The Estuary Restoration Act made our nation's estuaries a national priority. Defined as the areas where the river meets the sea, these unique transitional areas absorb floods and tides, filter water, and provide a home for people as well as fish: nearly half the U.S. population lives near estuarial waters.


An intrepid kayaker is enjoying an early season sunrise paddle in Annapolis, MD.


The Estuary Restoration Act was created to address accelerating wetland losses and ongoing damage from development, silting, and contamination. The ERA declared estuaries a national priority and promotes restoration and monitoring of estuary habitat around the country. 

Most of our large cities are located on estuaries. These major wetland areas are the focus of travel and recreation  as well as habitat essential for aquatic life. Degraded estuaries threaten our clean water, food supplies and local economy. The ERA promotes a coordinated approach to habitat restoration, forging effective partnerships with public and private agencies to promote and support these valuable waterways. The ERA affects 30 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam.

The purpose of the ERA is to:

  • Promote a coordinated federal approach to estuary habitat restoration.

  • Forge effective partnerships among public agencies and between the public and private sectors.

  • Provide financial and technical assistance for estuary habitat restoration projects.

  • Develop and enhance monitoring and research capabilities.

  • Authorize funding and implementation of estuary restoration projects by EPA, NOAA, USACE, USDA, and USFWS.   

The Council

The ERA establishes an interagency Council dedicated to directing policy relating to the directives of the ERA. The Council consists of representatives of five agencies:

The Council is responsible for the development and implementation of the Estuary Habitat Restoration Program, including a national Estuary Habitat Restoration strategy, monitoring standards for estuary habitat restoration projects, and recommending estuary restoration projects to the Secretary of the Army for funding.

The ERA Strategy

The ERA required the Council to develop an Estuary Habitat Restoration Strategy.  The first strategy was developed in 2002. In 2012, the Council updated the Strategy to focus its finite resources on realistic, attainable goals, and identifies gaps not currently filled by other federal programs.

Projects under ERA

Initially, USACE was the only agency to receive ERA funding for project implementation. The 2007 amendments authorized all five ERA agencies to receive appropriations and carry out restoration projects. View the 30 projects implemented under the ERA.

Monitoring Standards

The ERA appoints NOAA to lead the development of monitoring standards for restoration projects implemented under the Estuary Habitat Restoration Program. The ERA Council revised monitoring standards for estuary habitat restoration projects to document success.

Restoration science is an evolving field, and restoration projects may not always meet intended goals. Appropriate monitoring can help explain why goals are not met, and data from these projects can help evaluate relative efficacy of different methods and improve restoration techniques and project designs for future efforts

Publications and Resources