Sarasota Bay Estuary Program
The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is dedicated to restoring our area’s greatest and most important natural asset – Sarasota Bay.
The program strives to improve water quality, increase habitat and enhance the natural resources of the area for the use and enjoyment by the public. The health of Sarasota Bay has seen significant gains since it was named an estuary of national significance by the U.S. Congress in 1989.
SBEP began in June 1989 when Sarasota Bay was designated an “estuary of national significance ” by the U.S. Congress as part of the Water Quality Act of 1987. SBEP is one of 28 National Estuary Programs (www.epa.gov/nep/) in the United States. The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is a member of the Association of National Estuary Programs (www.nationalestuaries.org/)Adaptation Work:
Local Issues Many issues impact on the health and vitality of Sarasota Bay and all of its associated waterways. These include ongoing challenges related to urban development as well as the potential of unexpected events such as the BP Deep Horizon Oil Spill in 2010. Below are seven key issues that are currently being addressed by SBEP and its major partners.
- Stormwater Pollution SBEP and its partners continually educate groups and individuals throughout the watershed about ways to reduce stormwater pollution. This is accomplished through presentations, special events, classroom projects, press releases, social media networking, and information brochures.
- Loss of Habitat Rapid urban development and dredge and fill projects in prior decades reduced the amount of habitat throughout the estuary. Many developers and policy leaders in prior decades did not understand the importance of habitat on water quality and wildlife SBEP and its partners have completed more than 49 local restoration projects that have restored 2,158 acres.
- Loss of Wetlands Local wetlands decreased by more than 1,600 acres between 1950 and 1990. The goal for recovery is to protect existing freshwater and saltwater wetlands while helping create new wetland areas. In response, SBEP and its partners have added 650 acres of wetland.
- Diminished Seagrass Seagrass provides vital habitat for juvenile fish and invertebrates. It also provides support for hard bottom surfaces. Seagrass requires sufficient clear water for access to sunlight. Local efforts by SBEP, its partners and other organizations have helped increase seagrass acreage by 46 percent since 1988 – nearly 4,000 acres.
- Diminished Hard Bottom In 1996, SBEP developed a master artificial reef plan that identified 20 potential sites for new reefs. SBEP and its partners have constructed and placed more than 3,000 habitat modules at nine artificial reef sites since 2000. SBEP and its partners have also developed two oyster sites at White Beach in Sarasota County and The Gladiola Fields in Manatee County. Thirty-two tons of shell was added to the two sites in May 2011.
- Rising Sea Level The Climate Ready Estuaries Program is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to support contingency planning. The objective of the program is to provide local policy leaders and resource managers with practical long-term planning tools. The primary tool is a digital map that shows projected sea level increase scenarios over the next several decades.
- Funding Support Habitat restoration and water quality initiatives have been a high priority in Florida for many years. Recent budget cuts may have an adverse impact on restoration and water quality projects in the future. SBEP completed an Economic Valuation Study of Sarasota Bay in 2013 to better understand the total value of Sarasota Bay resources. Click here to read the report compiled by a team of three PhD level researchers.