New Law Gives Big Boost to Restoration and Protection of Bay, Delta

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Noah Berger

Peninsula Rep. Jackie Speier Praises Reauthorization of National Estuary Program

Federal support for protection and restoration of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary could nearly double in coming years following enactment last month of the Protect and Restore America’s Estuaries Act.

As one of 28 “estuaries of national significance” eligible for funding through the new law, the San Francisco Estuary and other estuaries along every U.S. coast each may now receive as much as $1 million a year in federal aid. This compares to just over $650,000 appropriated by Congress in fiscal 2020 to the San Francisco Estuary Partnership for protection and restoration of the San Francisco Estuary.

Passed with strong bipartisan support and unanimous approval from the Senate, the Protect and Restore America’s Estuaries Act reaffirms support of the National Estuary Program. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) noted, “For years we’ve taken advantage of the environmental splendors and economic growth provided by our nation’s estuaries without putting in the requisite work to protect them. The growing threat of climate change demands the federal government’s attention and this legislation helps provide a meaningful response. With double the annual funding limit of $50 million, the National Estuary Program can better support revitalization efforts for the San Francisco Bay and the nation’s 27 other estuaries of significance.”

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was the original sponsor of the Protect and Restore America’s Estuaries bill, which was introduced in July 2019. Rep. Malinowski said, “Estuaries nurture a vast array of marine life, filter pollutants from rivers before they reach the sea, and are the natural infrastructure that protects human communities from floods and storms. As extreme weather events increasingly threaten these nurseries of the sea, I’m very proud this important legislation was signed into law so these critical waterways will continue to be protected.”

The San Francisco Estuary Partnership works with communities at the local level to protect coastal resources essential for tourism, commerce, storm protection and clean water. In 2019, the Partnership passed more than $15 million in funding to local partners for on-the-ground projects ranging from water efficiency improvements and green infrastructure projects to fish passage, habitat and floodplain restoration projects.

“The San Francisco Estuary Partnership leverages $26 for every $1 of federal funding to adapt and prepare for the impacts of climate change and sea level rise on our vulnerable human and wildlife communities. Many areas of the Estuary are already feeling these impacts, making the new funding limit even more essential and timely,” said Caitlin Sweeney, Director of the San Francisco Estuary Partnership. “We greatly appreciate the strong support from our Senators and Representatives for the important work being done in our estuary through our program and in collaboration with so many partners across sectors.”

The San Francisco Estuary Partnership collaborates with regional planning organizations, volunteer groups, community-based organizations, scientific research organizations, government regulatory and non-regulatory agencies, and many others to successfully implement multi-benefit projects for a healthier, more resilient Estuary.