Sarasota Bay with Ringling Bridge

National Estuary Program

What is the National Estuary Program?

The National Estuary Program was established by Congress in 1987 to restore and protect estuaries of national significance.

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.