U.S. House Passes Buchanan-Backed Bill to Preserve Sarasota Bay

Government

SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY FEB 10, 2020

The U.S. House Wednesday passed legislation co-sponsored by Congressman Vern Buchanan to protect Sarasota Bay and other estuaries across the country. The bill extends the National Estuary Program through 2026 (it’s set to expire next year) and increases funding from $26.5 million annually to $50 million. The law is designed to protect drinking water and natural habitats in areas where saltwater meets freshwater and serves as one of our nation’s most valuable natural resources. Sarasota Bay is one of only 28 ecosystems in the entire country that have been formally designated by Congress as an “estuary of national significance.” It is home to more than 1,400 native species of diverse plants and iconic wildlife, such as the manatee, the bald eagle, the sea turtle and the bottlenose dolphin. It also contributes nearly $1.8 billion to Florida’s economy, according to the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program. Additionally, the Protect and Restore America’s Estuaries Act approved Wednesday requires that the estuary programs take into consideration the impact of extreme weather events on estuaries and implement adaptation strategies. The bill would also allow the program to provide grants to organizations working to address stormwater runoff, coastal resilience and sea level rise. Estuaries, or bodies of water and their surrounding coastal habitats, are typically found where rivers flow into the open sea. They are also some of the most productive ecosystems in the world – many animal species rely on estuaries for primary sources of food, nesting and breeding. Individual estuaries are managed by local leaders with input from local stakeholders. Florida has four of the 28 nationally recognized estuaries in the country including the Sarasota Bay and Tampa Bay. The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program has focused on improving water quality and habitat restoration. Recent goals for the program have included creating more than 25 acres of wetland.

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