Over a Decade of Work in our Estuaries & Watersheds
TEP is one of 28 National Estuary Projects working throughout the United States and in Puerto Rico. In 1987, Congress established the National Estuary Program (NEP) as part of the Clean Water Act. The NEP's mission is to protect and restore the health of estuaries while supporting economic and recreational activities. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers this program.
In the early 1990's, citizens in Oregon's Tillamook Bay region began to voice concerns about the basin's declining natural resources. Loss of spawning and rearing habitat had reduced salmon runs, posing real and potential losses of income for commercial fishermen, tackle shops, hotel owners, and other fishing-dependent businesses. Decreasing water quality, due in part to pathogen contamination, had led to violations of federal clean water standards and frequent closures of commercial shellfish beds. Erosion and sediment deposition, combined with changes in water flow and drainage patterns in the lower rivers and upper bay, exacerbated water quality and habitat problems while increasing the magnitude and frequency of flood events. For these and other reasons, concerned citizens, with the help of Oregon's Governor Roberts, nominated Tillamook Bay to the NEP in 1992. EPA approved the nomination, and the Tillamook Bay National Estuary Project (TBNEP) was established July 1, 1994.
1994 - 1999: The Tillamook Bay National Estuary Project's Early Years
After the TBNEP's establishment, the Management Conference convened to establish a process that merged scientific research and public input to develop a scientifically-defensible, community-supported resource management plan for the basin. Over four years in development, the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) establishes partner commitments and coordinates resource allocation for implementation of 63 actions targeted at four priority problems affecting Tillamook Bay and its watershed: water quality, habitat loss and simplification, erosion and sedimentation, and flooding.
2000 - 2002: TBNEP's Years as the Tillamook County Performance Partnership
TBNEP's Implementation Phase officially began on December 14th, 1999 with the approval of the CCMP by EPA administrator Carol Browner. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed the plan in August of the same year. Upon approval of the CCMP, the TBNEP shifted from a research and planning organization into an entity dedicated to implementing the CCMP. Its 63 actions identify the steps that local and state partners will undertake to address the basin's major natural resources issues. The plan is periodically revisited to address emerging issues and new management approaches.
Administered as a department of Tillamook County, the role of the TBNEP (renamed the "Tillamook County Performance Partnership (TCPP)") was to lead and facilitate implementation of the CCMP. The TCPP adopted a new structure to better equip it for this role, under an innovative management approach modeled after the federal National Performance Review initiative. As stated in its bylaws, "the purpose of the Tillamook County Performance Partnership [was] to provide a dynamic, results driven mechanism to build relationships, promote economic sustainability, and facilitate coordinated environmental restoration within the County."
2002 - Present: TBNEP as a non-profit - The Tillamook Estuaries Partnership
After its administration under the county as the TCPP, the TBNEP incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in the Spring of 2002 under the name Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP). The new name reflected the TBNEP's plan to not only assist partners in other areas of the county, but also to take lessons learned in Tillamook Bay and transfer them to the county's four other estuaries.
The decision to become a non-profit organization was based on two factors. First, as a non-profit the TEP could pursue more diversified and long term funding to complement annual EPA base funding. Second, as a non-profit the TEP Board of Directors would have greater autonomy over project implementation and financing.