This course will evaluate the multiple factors that must function to ensure the sustainability of estuaries of national significance. Since the beginning of the environmental movement in the 1960s, we have attempted to protect and improve our watersheds and estuaries through a series of environmental laws, but we learned over the last three decades that regulatory-based "command & control" approaches may have achieved their limits of success, and we now need to think more holistically in order to achieve the Clean Water Act goal of "fishable and swimmable" waters. In this course we will explore the new collaborative strategies and partnerships, which are available, and how social, economic and cultural factors are equally important as regulation to achieve estuary restoration. The National Estuary Program (NEP) was established in 1987 by amendments to the Clean Water Act (Section 320) to identify, restore and protect estuaries along the coasts of the U.S. Unlike traditional regulatory approaches to environmental protection, the NEP targets a broad range of issues and engages local communities in the process. The program focuses not just on improving water quality in an estuary, but on maintaining the integrity of the whole system - its chemical, physical, and biological properties, as well as its economic, recreational, and aesthetic.
This course will examine the twenty estuaries of national significance, including the Chesapeake and the Delaware Bays, in an effort to define the condition of estuaries in the US and what strategies can be utilized to attain water quality and habitat goals while achieving important socioeconomic needs of the estuary's diverse stakeholders. You will examine the history of estuary management, the factors that stress water quality and habitat, and what strategies are commonly used to reduce risks while safeguarding the environment and public health.