The Estuary Restoration Act
Estuaries are 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 and fish. The Estuary Restoration Act has made our nation's estuaries a national priority.
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.
Nearly half the U.S. population lives near estuarial waters and 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 Estuary Habitat Restoration Council
The ERA establishes an interagency Estuary Habitat Restoration Council dedicated to directing policy relating to the directives of the ERA. The Council consists of representatives of five agencies:
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (current chair)
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Department of Agriculture
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
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.
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
- The Economic and Market Value of Coasts and Estuaries: What's at Stake? (PDF, 182 pages). 2008. Restore America's Estuaries, Ed. Linwood Pendleton. This examines our understanding of the links between coastal conditions and economic activity.
- Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Eastern United States, 1998 to 2004 (PDF, 36 pages). 2008. Stedman, S. and T.E. Dahl. This document identifies wetlands and land use changes observed between 1998 and 2004 in the coastal watersheds of the United States adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Great Lakes.
- National Strategy to Restore Coastal and Estuarine Habitat (PDF, 156 pages) 2002. Restore America's Estuaries. This document provides a framework for restoring function to coastal and estuarine habitat.
- Principles of Estuarine Habitat Restoration. 1999. Restore America's Estuaries and the Estuarine Research Federation. This document is a set of working principles developed to help guide restoration activities.
- Volume I (2003), A Framework for Monitoring Plans Under the Estuaries and Clean Waters Act of 2000. This document outlines the steps necessary to develop a monitoring plan for any coastal habitat restoration project.
- Volume II (2005), Tools for Monitoring Coastal Habitats (PDF, 1030 pages). This document provides tools that aid restoration practitioners in the development and implementation of a plan.
- Dionne, M. and C. Peter. 2012. Measuring Tidal Wetland Response to Restoration Using Performance Benchmarks from Local Reference Sites. 59pp.
- Measuring and Monitoring the Economic Effects of Habitat Restoration: A Summary of a NOAA Blue Ribbon Panel 2010. Compiled by Linwood Pendleton. This document summarizes the comments and recommendations from a NOAA Blue Ribbon Panel on Demonstrating the Economic Effects of Habitat Restoration. Please note the comments and recommendations as presented here are intended only to provide general guidance and do not represent an official NOAA position.
- Socio-economic Benefits of Habitat Restoration. 2017. NOAA Fisheries Office of Habitat Conservation. This technical memo helps quantify the economic output and socioeconomic benefits of restoration projects is critical to better understand the short and long-term values of these projects to local communities.