On 25 October, the U.S. Congress passed legislation to revitalize coastal communities and restore essential coastal habitat important for fisheries. The Estuaries & Clean Water Act of 2000 (now a combination of several related bills) was sponsored by the late Senator John Chafee (R-RI) and Representative Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and had broad support among the west coast delegation. The legislation provides a federal commitment and resources to restore one million acres of habitat in America’s estuaries: the bays, sounds, gulfs, harbors, lagoons, inlets and deltas where fresh water mixes with the salt water of the ocean.
These areas are the nurseries for most of the nation’s fisheries. The legislation authorizes $275 million over five years for matching funds for local restoration projects. Since European settlement, the United States has lost more than six million acres of critical coastal wetlands habitat. Estuaries and wetlands are essential to the vitality of the nation’s fishing economy. For the importance of wetlands to the fishing industry see “Fisheries, Wetlands and Jobs” at: www.pond.net/pcffa/wetlands.htm.