Reposted from RAE Member Save the SF Bay blog:

This week we celebrate the 25th annual National Estuaries Day.

Estuaries are partially enclosed bodies of water, where rivers meet the ocean and create some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. They are rich in nutrients, and havens for fish and wildlife.

Naturally, at Save The Bay we focus on protecting and restoring the incredible estuary in our own back yard. But national advocacy matters, too. The Bay Area is a leader in coastal protection and restoration, and the work we do at the federal level has benefits here at home.

All across America, we’ve seen dramatic evidence of how valuable healthy estuaries are to the economy. Tidal marshes and sea grasses provide natural barriers that buffer against storms and floods, absorb and store carbon, and serve as nurseries for commercial and recreational fisheries. Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and Superstorm Sandy have all shown the pressing need to protect and restore estuaries.

Save The Bay pioneered this kind of protection 50 years ago, with a revolutionary citizens’ movement that stopped the massive filling that was shrinking San Francisco Bay. Our success inspired similar movements from Boston Harbor to Puget Sound, and Chesapeake to Galveston. Nearly 20 years ago we formed a national alliance of 11 “save the bay” organizations. The Restore America’s Estuaries alliance builds on the work of regional organizations like ours to create an effective nation-wide movement.

In the years I’ve been privileged to work with the alliance, it has secured federal coastal legislation and millions of dollars for marsh restoration in San Francisco Bay and around the nation. National advocacy has boosted Congressional funding for the Community Restoration Program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which in turn has paid to restore salt ponds back to tidal marshes from Alviso in the south to Napa in the north.

Wetland restoration has made a huge beneficial impact on San Francisco Bay, providing more habitat and improving water quality to make the Bay healthy enough to support more sharks, porpoises, pelicans, and shorebirds. The challenge of climate change still looms before us, but San Francisco Bay also offers an enormous opportunity: With more resources to pay for restoration, we could double the Bay’s current tidal marsh in the next few decades. That habitat improvement would protect Bay shoreline communities and crucial infrastructure from flooding. It’s a proven job creator, too.

That’s why we’re working hard to make restoration a reality in the Bay Area. We’re blessed with a spectacular natural treasure, residents who love the Bay, and a great legacy of fighting for our environment. With those assets, restoring a healthy estuary is within our grasp.