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Estuary Restoration Act

Estuary Restoration Act of 2000 (PL 106-457, Title I) as amended 

The purpose of the Estuary Restoration Act, as amended, (ERA) is to promote the restoration of estuary habitat; to develop a national Estuary Habitat Restoration Strategy for creating and maintaining effective partnerships within the Federal government and with the private sector; to provide Federal assistance for and promote efficient financing of estuary habitat restoration projects; and to develop and enhance monitoring, data sharing, and research capabilities.  The ERA has wide support.  Estuaries are defined under the Act to include the Great Lakes.  The Act affects 30 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam. 

The ERA authorizes a program under which the Secretary of the Army may carry out projects and provide technical assistance to meet the restoration goal.  Costs of projects funded under the ERA must be shared with non-Federal parties.  Non-Federal responsibilities and project selection criteria are discussed in the ERA.  Limited funding has been provided and a number of projects are in various stages from planning through construction.  For a project list, click here.  Funding is authorized to be appropriated to all of the Council member agencies (see below) for implementation of projects.  The Secretary of the Army may delegate projects with a Federal cost of less than $1,000,000 to one of the other Council members to implement with it’s own appropriated funds or other funds available to the agency. 

The “Estuary Habitat Restoration Council” consisting of representatives of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Department of Agriculture, and  the Department of Army is established.  There may also be one ex officio member appointed by the President. Responsibilities of the Council include soliciting, evaluating, reviewing, and recommending project proposals for funding, developing a national strategy, reviewing the effectiveness of the strategy and providing advice on development of databases, monitoring standards, and reports required under the Act.  In accordance with the Act the Council developed a national strategy to ensure a comprehensive and integrated restoration approach and foster coordination of Federal and non-Federal restoration activities.  Elements of the strategy, its coordination and updating are also discussed in the Act.  The original strategy was published in the Federal Register in December 2002.  By 2009 it was evident that the strategy required revision to more accurately reflect the capabilities and current focus of the Council.  After involvement of various interest groups and comments on a draft the Council approved a new strategy November 7th 2012.  The strategy is also posted on NOAA’s ERA page.  In addition a work plan to guide implementation of the strategy was developed and is available here and on NOAA’s ERA page.

The Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, Department of Commerce is responsible for developing and maintaining a database of information concerning estuary habitat restoration projects and for developing standard data formats and requirements for project monitoring.  The information is to be made available to the public.