Whitehouse bill aims to protect Narragansett Bay, other estuaries

[SOURCE: The Jamestown Press]

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has introduced legislation that would reauthorize a program to financially support the preservation of estuaries, including Narragansett Bay.

Whitehouse, a Democrat, is co-sponsoring the bill with Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy. The legislation would nearly double the annual aid level for the program. Whitehouse called estuaries “major economic drivers” that protect coastal construction from storm surges.

“As climate change advances, it’s never been more important to have healthy estuaries that provide a natural buffer,” he said.

The National Estuary Program, which was established by Rhode Island Republican John Chafee in 1987 to protect and restore estuarine habitats threatened by pollution and over-development, is set to expire in 2021. Whitehouse’s bill would reauthorize the program through 2026 at $50 million annually, which would be a yearly increase of $23.5 million.

An estuary is a partially enclosed body of water where freshwater rivers mix with saltwater from the ocean to form a brackish waterway. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, estuary regions cover 13 percent of the continental United States but make up nearly half of the country’s economic output….