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National Estuary Program (NEP)

National Estuary Program Reporting Environmental Results

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Reporting Environmental Results Matters

The National Estuary Program works with local communities to improve the health of our nation's estuaries. Together, they develop plans called Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plans (CCMPs) that contain environmental goals for their estuaries and watersheds as well as blueprints for achieving those goals.

Community support and involvement is fundamental to the success of these efforts. As this is a long-term process, keeping the community well-informed and connected with plan activities and progress is critical to keeping the plan a vital, living process for the community.

Performance reporting is not only essential for garnering and maintaining community support, it often is mandated. Enabling legislation or other laws—federal or local—may require responsible agencies to report on the progress they are making toward established goals.

For the National Estuary Program, the following pieces of federal legislation affect performance reporting:

 
  • Estuaries and Clean Water Act of 2000 (PDF)(26 pp, 76 K, About PDF)
    This legislation makes restoring the nation's estuaries a national priority and funds community-based estuary restoration projects. Reauthorization of EPA's National Estuary Program is included, with funds for estuary management in addition to planning. The core of the bill establishes a five-year program through which the federal government will promote and track estuary restoration.
  • Government Performance Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) Exit
    This act requires that federal agencies should link inputs, outputs and outcomes of their programs to improve government:
    • planning;
    • budgeting;
    • performance; and
    • overall results.
  • Clean Water Act Amendments of 1987 Exit
    The enabling legislation for the NEP program stipulates that NEPs must "monitor the effectiveness of actions taken pursuant to the plan."

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Challenges in Reporting Environmental Results

Estuary Photograph

While habitat acreage restored and protected is a strong measure of NEPs’ progress, EPA recognizes that it does not necessarily reflect improvements in habitat health (e.g., function or condition). This habitat measure is used as an indicator to show tangible results towards a goal of conserving and enhancing the ecological health of estuaries. 

In addition, although the habitat acreage measure is reported annually, EPA recognizes that complete habitat restoration is a long-term process. While visual transformations in habitat structure and composition due to restoration efforts may be seen after a growing season, and use of the habitat by various key species may increase over a short period of time, changes in ecological function may not be fully realized for many years.

EPA acknowledges that there are data limitations associated with the habitat information reported by each NEP. Although these limitations exist, the data presented is as accurate as possible based on review and inspection by each NEP prior to posting on this web page.

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