Congress established the National Estuary Program in 1987 to protect nationally significant estuaries of the United States. Currently, there are 28 local programs working to safeguard the health of some of our nation’s most important waters. The programs target a broad range of issues and encourage communities to develop solutions. Scientists, policy analysts, and educators work together with local communities to identify problems and help develop solutions that everyone can agree upon to address problems facing their watersheds.
The program encourages communities to take care of their own estuaries. The governor of a state must nominate an estuary before it can be accepted into the national program. Once accepted by EPA into the national program, each community develops a plan that addresses the whole range of environmental problems facing the estuary while balancing the needs of everyone who lives there. Each individual program consists of representatives from federal, state, and local government agencies responsible for managing the estuary's resources, as well people who live in the community, business leaders, educators, and researchers.