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New funding coming to Morro Bay National Estuary Program to help preserve "nurseries for the ocean"

Benjamin Purper
The Morro Bay Museum of Natural History has interactive exhibits for visitors to learn about the local estuary.

The Environmental Protection Agency this week announced new funding for estuaries around the country, including in Morro Bay.

Estuaries are coastal bodies of water, partially enclosed with one or more other sources of water flowing into it, as well as with open connection to the ocean.

Morro Bay has one of the smaller estuaries in the country, compared to bigger ones like Santa Monica and San Francisco which are also receiving federal funds.

The money comes from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, and it allocates $4.5 million for the Morro Bay Estuary to step up work on conservation projects over the next five years. That includes work on climate resilience, equity, and other key water quality and habitat challenges, according to the EPA.

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A map of the California estuaries, all of which will receive federal funding from the infrastructure bill.

Suzanne Marr with the EPA said the funding is important for National Estuary Programs like the one in Morro Bay to conserve and maintain these important and sensitive natural habitats.

“This bill funding is an added opportunity to accelerate the work that the National Estuary Programs are doing,” Marr said.

Maintaining estuaries has social benefits as well as environmental ones, according to Marr.

“[Estuaries] are true nurseries for the oceans. They're important for recreation as well, and also for raising food for us, such as oysters,” Marr said.

Executive Director of the Morro Bay National Estuary Program Melodie Grubbs said while the EPA funding is only for five years, it will help the program step up some longer-term programs they have around major environmental issues. Those include sea level rise and ocean acidification.

“What is our estuary going to look like with three feet of sea level rise, what types of habitats can we conserve, and how can we use that kind of information to prioritize our actions now? We have some really good resources in terms of what our partners are doing and how we can leverage the work that we're doing to maybe contribute to some bigger projects,” Grubbs said.

More information on the estuary funding is here, and the Morro Bay National Estuary Program’s website is here.

Benjamin Purper came to KCBX in May of 2021 from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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