Bill Nearly Doubles Funding For National Estuary Program
The U.S. House of Representatives today passed H.R. 4044, The Protect and Restore America’s Estuaries Act, with a vote of 355-62. The bill, which U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) co-sponsored and voted for, nearly doubles the funding authorization for the National Estuary Program (NEP) to protect estuaries across the country, including the Indian River Lagoon.
“The Indian River Lagoon is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country, which is just one of the countless reasons we need to do more to protect and restore it,” Rep. Mast said. “Working together to pass this legislation is a big win in our fight to improve water quality and will go a long way for our communities that rely on healthy estuaries.”
The Protect and Restore Estuaries Act authorizes a total of $250 million in funding to be used for various water quality projects. In the past, funding through this program has been used for projects, including:
- IRL Shoreline Restoration Project to establish an additional 200 square meters of living shoreline along the Indian River Lagoon;
- Florida Oceanographic Oyster Restoration, Education and Discovery to educate residents about oyster reefs, the ecosystem services they provide and their importance as habitat in the Indian River Lagoon;
- Florida Atlantic University and University of Florida Harmful Algal Blooms study to deliver lagoon-wide monitoring for the presence of harmful algal blooms;
- Willoughby Creek Stormwater Quality Improvement Project to capture and treat stormwater runoff along U.S. Highway 1;
- West Wabasso, Phase II, Septic to Sewer Project to construct a gravity sewer system to service a mixed land-use area that relies on septic systems;
- Florida Institute of Technology study to determine whether sediment aeration is a viable technique for muck management in addition to dredging; and
- St. Lucie Water Champions Initiative to inform, educate and engage the public about ongoing lagoon health issues.
A complete list of Indian River Lagoon projects funded by the NEP can be found here.
The NEP was previously authorized to receive $26.5 million per year through FY 2021 as a part of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was signed into law in December 2020. H.R. 4044 would extend this authorization through FY2026 and nearly double its funding authorization to $50 million per year.
The legislation can be found HERE.