Estuary Program - St. Andrew / St. Joe Bays
Latest Estuary Program News
May 28, 2020
At its May 19, 2020 meeting, the Bay County Board of County Commissioners approved three items directly tied to the establishment of the St. Andrew/St. Joe Bays Estuary Program. The Board approved an agreement with The Nature Conservancy of Florida to accept almost $1 million over three years to support establishment of the Estuary Program and development and approval of a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the watershed.
The Board also approved an agreement to pass these funds through to the Florida State University. FSU Panama City will serve as host to the Estuary Program, providing a robust scientific and administrative infrastructure for the program. FSU’s FCRC Consensus Center will initiate the Estuary Program stakeholder engagement and management structure.
The Bay County Commissioners also approved a draft amendment to the County’s RESTORE Act Direct Component (Pot 1) Multiyear Plan to provide $720,000 to FSU to further support the Estuary Program and plan development. The Board initiated a 45-day public input period for the community to comment on the addition of the Estuary Program as a project in the Multiyear Plan. The Bay County Chamber of Commerce spoke in favor of the Estuary Program at the meeting.
The Commissioners also passed a resolution to Embrace the Gulf in 2020, recognizing the environmental, economic and cultural importance of the Gulf of Mexico. This recognition is an initiative of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance.
The draft amendment to the County’s RESTORE Plan can be downloaded at https://tinyurl.com/BayMYPamend2. The public is encouraged to provide comments on the draft amendment via email to RESTOREproposals@baycountyfl.gov, or mailing comments to RESTORE Act Direct Component, 840 W. 11th Street, Panama City, FL 32401.
If you would like to subscribe to Bay County’s RESTORE Act interested parties list, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line. If you would like to subscribe to Bay County’s Estuary Program email list, send an email to BayEstuaryProgram@baycountyfl.gov with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.
Program Funding & Modeling
Initial funding for the St. Andrew/St. Joe Bays Estuary Program will be provided by The Nature Conservancy in Florida and a portion of Bay County’s RESTORE Act Direct Component (Pot 1) funds from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Modeled after the National Estuary Program, it will be a locally-driven effort to manage an estuary and its watershed.
Panhandle Estuary Programs
With the establishment of the St. Andrew/St. Joe Bays Estuary Program, estuary programs will be in place for the entire Western Panhandle, joining the Choctawhatchee Bay Estuary Program and the Pensacola/Perdido Bays Estuary Program.
The Estuary Program is designed to be a locally-driven effort to identify and solve the problems facing a bay and watershed, based on objective, scientific information. The program provides stakeholders with a permanent forum to come together to review information, agree on the problems, and work together to find solutions and funding to address those problems.
To be successful, a broad spectrum of our community must participate and demonstrate strong support for the program. The St. Andrew/St. Joe Bays system is central to our economy, our identity, and our way of life. Unlike other panhandle watersheds, the entire St. Andrew/St. Joe watershed is in Florida. Two-thirds of our watershed is in Bay County. We control the future of our bay.
Hosts, Groups & Subgroups
The Florida State University, Panama City campus, will serve as the host organization and will provide administrative and financial management support for the estuary program, along with initial program organizational support. A management group consisting of stakeholders will be established to direct the operations of the estuary program. A subgroup, made up of top officials from key local, federal, and state resource or decision-making organizations, will be the decision-making body.
Staffing will include the program director, head scientist, outreach coordinator, and administrative support.