Long History of Protecting the Santa Monica Bay

Since 1988, the Santa Monica Bay National Estuary Program (SMBNEP) has been one of 28 National Estuary Programs (NEPs). Established by Section 320 of the federal Clean Water Act, the NEPs are administered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) which identifies estuaries of national significance, requires the development of plans to restore these estuaries, and provides grants to pay for activities necessary to implement the plan.

The SMBNEP’s comprehensive plan of action for protecting and restoring Santa Monica Bay, known as the Bay Restoration Plan (BRP), was approved by the U.S. EPA and the State of California in 1995 and updated in 2008 and 2013. The BRP includes goals, objectives, and milestones that guide SMBNEP’s programs and projects in three priority areas: water quality, natural resources, and benefits and values to humans. The BRP also identifies the responsible lead and partner entities, and the roles of the SMBNEP in supporting, promoting, and implementing Bay restoration work.

The SMBNEP is implemented by two entities: The Bay Foundation (TBF), also known as the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission (SMBRC).

TBF is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1990. The mission of TBF is to contribute to the restoration and enhancement of the Santa Monica Bay and other coastal waters. ( TBF receives an annual grant from U.S. EPA pursuant to section 320 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. §1330) to implement the BRP and to provide administrative, management, and program services to the SMBRC. TBF also receives important grants and donations from other entities to support TBF and its activities.  SMBNEP’s financial summary can be found here. For TBF’s latest tax return, click here.

The SMBRC is a non-regulatory, locally-based state entity established by an act of the California Legislature in 2002 (Pub. Res. Code §30988(d).). The SMBRC is charged with coordinating activities of federal, state, local, and other entities to restore and enhance the Santa Monica Bay, including identifying and leveraging funding to put solutions into action, building public-private partnerships, promoting cutting-edge research and technology, facilitating stakeholder-driven consensus processes, and raising public awareness ( The SMBRC brings together local, state, and federal agencies, environmental groups, businesses, scientists, and members of the public on its 36-member Governing Board. The SMBRC is also supported by a Technical Advisory Committee, and a broad stakeholder body, the Watershed Advisory Council. The SMBRC’s enabling statute provides, among other actions, that the SMBRC can receive funds to restore the Santa Monica Bay and to award and administer grants. To date, the state legislature has not appropriated funds to the SMBRC.



Between 2007 and 2008, the SMBRC in coordination with TBF conducted a comprehensive update of the original 1995 BRP through a public and iterative process with active participation from members of the Governing Board as well as members of the Watershed Advisory Council (WAC) and the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). In 2013, the BRP was updated again through a similar public process. The BRP lays out approaches and strategies intended to result in making substantial progress toward Bay restoration over the next ten to twenty years. More specifically, the 2013 BRP Update presents a set of revised goals, objectives, and milestones to address remaining issues and new challenges, and reflects the consensus of SMBRC partners with regard to the best strategies and priorities to ensure continued progress and achieve eventual restoration of the Bay and its watershed.