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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Narragansett Bay Estuary Program Publishes Atlas of Narragansett Bay

Narragansett, RI ,-- May 9, 2002 -- Where are the largest salt marshes on Narragansett Bay? How many acres of eelgrass are there left in the Bay? Where can I see harbor seals sunning themselves? The answers to these and many more questions can be found in the recently published Atlas of Narragansett Bay Coastal Habitats.

The atlas is published by the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program (NBEP), one of a network of coastal watershed protection and restoration programs created by the late Senator John H. Chafee and other members of Congress in 1987. The publication is based on an intense study of Bay habitats and coastal features carried out by the NBEP over the last few years.

The purpose of the publication is to inform the general public, municipalities, and resource managers of the findings of the Narragansett Bay coastal habitat inventory study. The atlas provides baseline information to support studies on habitat changes over time. It is also provides a critical data foundation for developing and prioritizing habitat restoration projects. A third use of the Atlas is to inform decisions regarding the siting of coastal development projects that may have an impact on Bay natural resources. Every municipality, conservation commission, public library, high school and middle school in Rhode Island is being provided with a copy of the atlas.

In addition, the colorful and informative atlas serves as an educational tool to raise public awareness about the existence and importance of the Bay's habitats. The atlas can be a critical component in improving our understanding, protection, and management of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island’s most important environmental and economic resource.

The atlas' study area includes Narragansett Bay and shoreline areas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including the many river systems that impact the Bay. It features thirteen large and highly detailed color maps that show the locations of color-coded coastal habitats, including salt marshes, beaches, rocky shores, tidal flats, marshes, shrub wetlands, eelgrass beds, dunes, oyster reefs, and streambeds.

The publication of the atlas coincides with the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program’s new affiliation with the Coastal Institute at the University of Rhode
Island. Previously hosted by the state’s environmental management agency, the program now maintains offices at both RIDEM and the URI Coastal Institute and will work closely with the Partnership for Narragansett Bay, a group representing Bay interests formed under the auspices of the Coastal Institute.

In June, the NBEP will launch the Narragansett Bay Journal, a quarterly newspaper featuring news and information on the Bay and its watersheds. The first issue will be widely distributed throughout the state and the Massachusetts portion of the Bay watershed, included as an insert in The Providence Journal. Subsequent issues will be available free of charge to subscribers.

One of 28 National Estuary Programs established by Congress under the Clean Water Act, the NBEP protects and preserves Narragansett Bay through partnerships that conserve and restore natural resources, enhance water quality and ecosystem health, and promote community involvement. The new offices at the URI Bay Campus are staffed by program director Richard Ribb, outreach and policy coordinator Tom Ardito, scientific director Christopher Deacutis, and environmental scientist Helen Cottrell, all alumni of the University of Rhode Island.

For more information about the Atlas or to obtain a copy, visit the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program website at <http://www.nbep.org>.

Contact: Richard Ribb, (401) 874-6233, rribb@gso.uri.edu, Lisa Cugini, (401) 874-6642, lcugini@gso.uri.edu

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