In 1987, an act of Congress established the National Estuary Program (NEP) under the Clean Water Act to address problems facing valuable coastal resources in estuarine areas - where rivers flow into the sea. NEPs are sponsored by the EPA to identify nationally-significant estuaries threatened by pollution, development, or overuse. NEPs must develop comprehensive management plans which act as the blueprint for the NEPs work in ensuring the ecological integrity of the NEP. The Massachusetts Bays Program (Mass Bays) became a part of the NEP in 1990, highlighting the region as an “estuary of national significance.”
Hosted by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, Mass Bays envisions a network of healthy and resilient estuaries, sustainable ecosystems that support the life and communities dependent upon them. The Mass Bays Program is dedicated to protecting, restoring, and enhancing the estuarine ecosystems of Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay. We facilitate partnerships to prompt local, state, and federal action and stewardship, convening stakeholders on the local and regional level, providing scientific basis for management decisions, and educating decision makers about problems and solutions. Currently, there are 28 NEPs across the country with two in Massachusetts and five in New England.
Stretching from the New Hampshire border to the tip of Cape Cod, the 50 coastal communities in the Mass Bays region are home to over 1.7 million people. Because of its large size and geographic diversity, the Mass Bays area is divided into five regions , each with their own regional coordinator. Regional coordinators respond to local needs, convening stakeholders and decision makers, providing technical and hands-on assistance, and conducting education and outreach to engage volunteers and inform citizens.
Mass Bays is overseen by a Management Committee. Management Committee members represent a broad range of interests including federal, state, and local governments, private business, and non-profits. Using a consensus-building approach and collaborative decision making process, the Management Committee ensures that Mass Bays' work is tailored to regional environmental conditions based on stakeholder input, and supports regional priorities.