Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, Tillamook Estuaries Receive $1.2 Million In EPA Funding Under National Estuary Program

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership and the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership will share $1.2 million in funding under the EPA National Estuary Program.

Each program is receiving the base award of $600,000. The TEP will receive an additional $25,000 to launch an ocean acidification study in Tillamook Bay.

This year, National Estuaries Week is September 14-17.

“Estuaries are unheralded heroes of protecting water quality, providing critical habitat and reducing flood impacts to communities,” said Chris Hladick, EPA Regional Administrator in  Seattle.  “We’re proud that the National Estuary Program can assist these local efforts to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of the Pacific Northwest’s estuaries of national significance.” The Puget Sound is the third Northwest estuary of national significance.

“The EPA National Estuary Program grant provides the base for everything we do; it gives us the core funding to establish our work and also to leverage millions more annually that support the work of many community partners – and gets on-the-ground results that protects one of the nation’s 28 NEPs,” said Debrah Marriott, Executive Director of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership.

The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership has been leading ecosystem improvement in the lower Columbia river in Oregon and Washington since 1995.

The Estuary Partnership builds on existing work by many partners to increase habitat, improve water quality, expand knowledge and data about the river, and engage community members of all ages in caring for the Columbia River.

The Estuary Partnership is “focused on getting results on-the-ground and helping policy makers make sound natural resource decisions. Over the past 25 years, they have worked with partners to restore over 28,000 acres of habitat and engage over 90,000 adults and students in riparian plantings projects – over 144,000 native trees and shrubs. The Partnership is now tackling the impacts of climate change and toxics contamination,” said an EPA press release.

Kristi Foster, Executive Director of the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership, said, “​The core funding we receive through the EPA National Estuary Program grant allows our staff to lead programs related to clean water, healthy habitats, abundant wildlife, and vibrant communities throughout Tillamook County.  We are able to leverage each federal dollar 6:1 through project grants and partner support — this makes a huge difference in our rural communities.”

Tillamook Estuary Partnership is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Tillamook Bay’s designation as a “Bay of National Significance” and the establishment of the Tillamook Bay National Estuary Project.  Since then, TEP has expanded its project area to include all of the bays and watersheds in Tillamook County.

Through the work by TEP and its many partners,​ over 800  habitat-related projects have returned nearly 600 acres of imperiled tidal-wetlands to more natural conditions and have reconnected 26 miles of salmon-bearing streams.

EPA recently approved TEP’s revision to its Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, its action agenda for the upcoming decade, which will address the current challenges in Tillamook County’s estuaries: loss of key fish and wildlife habitat, water quality stressors, natural hazards, and the effects of climate change.  

The National Estuary Program is an EPA place-based program to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance. Currently, 28 estuaries located along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts and in Puerto Rico are designated as estuaries of national significance. The NEP employs a watershed approach, using extensive public participation, collaborative problem solving and science-based approaches to address watershed challenges.

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