Sarasota Bay with Ringling Bridge

National Estuary Program

National Estuary Program Logo

There are 28 estuaries of national significance in the National Estuary Program (NEP).

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

Click here to visit a map of all of the NEPs.

The National Estuary Program (NEP) was established under the 1987 Clean Water Act Amendments to improve the quality of estuaries of national importance. It is a unique voluntary program that operates through partnerships with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other organizations in the public and private sector. Each NEP operates collaboratively with its major partners and other organizations involved with watershed management.

Section 320 directs EPA to develop plans for attaining or maintaining water quality in an estuary. This includes protection of public water supplies, protection of a balanced population of fish, shellfish and wildlife, support of recreational activities, and control of point and non-point sources of pollution. Each National Estuary Program has established a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan to meet the goals of Section 320.

The NEPs have succeeded because they focus on the entire watershed, use science to support local decision-making, emphasize collaborative problem-solving, and engage the public.

Climate Ready Estuaries

SBEP was selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2010 to receive financial support from the Climate Ready Estuaries (CRE) program. CRE supports local climate adaptation planning by helping National Estuary Programs identify climate change vulnerabilities, develop local adaptation plans, and support long term planning.

Climate Ready Estuaries - EPAThe CRE program supports NEPs and coastal communities by providing special tools and assistance to assess climate change vulnerabilities, engage and educate community stakeholders, develop and implement adaptation strategies, and share lessons learned with other coastal resource managers.

Click here to see the SBEP’s Sea Level Rrise Web Map showing long range scenarios for sea level increases.

King High Tides Photo Project

During the last week of October 2011, the Sarasota Bay area had high, or “King,” tides of over two feet. King tides occur when the moon and sun align on one side of the Earth and their gravitational forces combine to create higher tides than normal. While these tides are natural occurrences, they provide local communities with a sneak-peak of what the landscape may look like in future decades with sea level rise. Click here to see photos from around the Florida Gulf Coast.

Visit to learn more about the EPA Climate Ready Estuaries Program.