About the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program

Mission Statement

To protect and preserve Narragansett Bay and its watershed through partnerships that conserve and restore natural resources, enhance water quality and promote community involvement.

The NBEP accomplishes this by:
  • Promoting a holistic perspective of Narragansett Bay and its watershed that includes social, economic and environmental aspects.
  • Coordinating actions to protect and restore coastal ecosystems;
  • Initiating and managing restoration plans and projects;
  • Using collaboration and partnerships to address common goals;
  • Identifying information needs; acquiring, interpreting and disseminating data to support informed, science-based decision-making;
  • Stimulating discussion on Bay issues and bringing expertise through public workshops, professional forums and scientific symposia and reporting on the results;
  • Effectively keeping the public and policy-makers informed of Bay and watershed issues;
  • Matching resources to management needs through grants and partnerships;
  • Supporting local watershed organizations in implementation and training initiatives;
  • Convening and coordinating interagency technical teams and workgroups such as the Partnership for Narragansett Bay, R.I. Habitat Restoration Team, and the Dissolved Oxygen Strike Team.

History Of The Program

The Narragansett Bay Estuary Program is part of the National Estuary Program (NEP), a national network of 28 programs working for collaborative solutions for estuaries designated by Congress as of critical importance. Created in 1987 under the Clean Water Act, the NEPs are charged with protecting and restoring U.S. estuaries by engaging state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations and local communities in planning and management decisions and actions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides base funding and federal oversight for each of the NEPs, but program management is typically the responsibility of an estuary stakeholder-based management committee. The NBEP is also a member of the Association of National Estuary Programs (ANEP), a nonprofit organization that supports the NEP network and promotes implementation of NEP estuary management plans.

Section 320 of the Clean Water Act (National Estuary Program) states that one of the main purposes of the NEP is to develop a comprehensive watershed ecosystem plan for conservation and management of natural resources in NEP estuaries. NEPs are required to have inclusive stakeholder representation on any management or advisory committee. Representatives of state and federal agencies (including EPA), interstate or regional agencies, local governments, industry and business, public and private educational institutions and the general public should comprise such a committee. This stakeholder-based decision-making process ensures that all interests are represented and increases commitment to joint planning and action.

In 1993, the Governor of Rhode Island and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency affixed their signatures to the Narragansett Bay CCMP, committing both entities, with other partners who developed the plan's recommendations, to implementation of the Bay plan. Concurrently, the CCMP was accepted as part of the R.I. State Guide Plan, requiring that State agency and municipal plans are consistent with the CCMP. The plan specifically recognizes that it should be a living and dynamic plan and should be periodically reviewed and revised to address current needs and issues.

In keeping with Congress' mandate, since 1993 the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program has been implementing the CCMP by coordinating planning, policy, technical assistance, science and outreach pertaining to the Bay and watershed ecosystem. The NBEP is affiliated with the Coastal Institute at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography.

NBEP Role in Ecosystem Management

Like the other National Estuary Programs, the NBEP is the only planning, policy and project initiative with a specific federal charge to work on a watershed/ecosystem basis and to do this in a highly collaborative manner, based on an articulation of stakeholder priorities for the watershed which is the foundation of a CCMP. NEPs serve as catalysts in their watersheds: working to attract and direct federal and other resources to local needs, building needed scientific and watershed information, informing the public and policy makers, convening collaborative workgroups around key issues in estuary watersheds, supporting local grassroots-level organizations to conduct implementation actions, promoting an ecosystem perspective, and bringing together funding, partners and projects to implement the defined goals and objectives of estuary management plans.

The NBEP identifies areas of need where the program can have the greatest impact, filling data and action gaps. Using its skills in science, policy, management and communications, the NBEP seeks to address key issues in the Narragansett Bay watershed, through program and partnership action.

The program has taken leadership roles in several areas of Bay and watershed management including the restoration of anadromous fish to Bay rivers and streams and coastal marsh restoration, enhancing bi-state connections with stakeholders in the Massachusetts part of the watershed through grant programs and technical assistance, tackling data needs by actions such as instituting the first dissolved oxygen surveys of the Bay and creating the first baseline data sets on the status of the state's coastal habitats, increasing accountability and ability to measure environmental progress through development and use of Bay and watershed indicators, and creating a mechanism to broadcast information specific to Bay issues to the greatest possible number of watershed residents and stakeholders through the publication and distribution of the Narragansett Bay Journal.

Program Priorities in NBEP Workplans
  • Bay Planning and Policy on an ecosystem/watershed basis
  • Ecosystem Monitoring
  • Narragansett Bay and Watershed Water Quality and Living Resources
  • Technical & Funding Assistance for Communities and Watershed Councils
  • Habitat Inventory, Restoration & Protection
  • Informing the Public and Policy Makers

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