The National Estuary Programs (NEPs) were authorized by Congress in the Water Quality Act of 1987 with the purpose of developing and implementing science-based Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plans (CCMPs) for estuaries of national significance. In Southwest Florida, three contiguous estuaries of national prominence (Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay and Charlotte Harbor) are vital to providing resiliency to Gulf of Mexico marine resources.
In August 2012, the three Southwest Florida National Estuary Programs agreed to develop one list of priority environmental projects for consideration by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (GCERC) and the State of Florida. Cities, counties, non-profit organizations, universities and other institutions were invited to submit project information. The 280 proposals received were rigorously reviewed, vetted and ranked by technical and science advisers, using criteria defined by the Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Restoration Strategy and the RESTORE Act. The final regional ranked list was approved on March 8, 2013 by the elected officials and agency representatives comprising our Policy Boards.
The projects proposed herein expand on work identified in the CCMPs, which are specifically outlined in the RESTORE Act as funding mechanisms for implementation. The Southwest Florida NEPs have a proven track record of success in protecting and restoring Southwest Florida ecosystems and Gulf of Mexico resources. Our Boards found that putting forward one list of environmental projects will provide a unified vision that presents the priority environmental restoration and research needs of more than half of Florida’s Gulf Coast (stretching from the Big Bend region to the Everglades) and almost 20% of the total US Gulf coast.
We are pleased to provide the attached Southwest Florida Regional Ecosystem Restoration Plan (link below), for consideration in inclusion in the State of Florida’s comprehensive project list and the Council’s Comprehensive Plan. Activities in the Regional Plan include large-scale coastal habitat restoration, land acquisition, and water quality enhancement, as well as environmental monitoring, assessment and education programs. More than 100 projects, submitted by 50 entities, are included in the highly ranked 3Yr projects.
A searchable electronic database of all the projects is available at www.tbeptechorg.org/DATA/RESTORE_ACT/SWFRER_Plan_3-8-2013.accdb and at www.chnep.wateratlas.usf.edu/upload/documents/SWFRER_Plan,%203-8-2013.accdb . (Also linked below).
The three Southwest Florida NEPs offer our continued assistance to fully develop and implement the plan. Our federally authorized programs and CCMPs provide a means of enhancing coordination and implementation of the Gulf Council’s Comprehensive Plan in our areas. We look forward to working with the GCERC in continuing the restoration and recovery of the vibrant and abundant natural resources of our coasts and Gulf.
Please don’t hesitate to contact one or all of us with any questions or comments.
|Lisa Beever, Director||Mark Alderson, Director||Holly Greening, Director|