Creating Estuary Programs in Florida's Panhandle
Significant funding for environmental restoration will be coming to Florida as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In order to help ensure that these funds have the greatest restoration impact, it will be vitally important to maximize the science-based collaboration between local, state and federal government officials, NGOs, academia, business/industry and citizens to identify the biggest issues facing each watershed and prioritize, fund and implement the projects which will have the greatest impact on addressing the issues. In the Florida panhandle, this is being accomplished by creating three Estuary Programs (EPs) based on EPA's National Estuary Program (NEP) model. The NEP model provides a proven science-based collaborative process that brings all stakeholders together to identify and prioritize issues and projects. This process is incredibly important especially in light of the fact that much of the Florida panhandle watersheds are shared with Alabama so having a collaborative process to facilitate cross-state cooperation is critically important. This session will bring together the leads for each of the three new Estuary Programs (Pensacola & Perdido Bay EP, Choctawhatchee Bay EP, and St. Andrews/St. Joe Bay EP), as well as The Nature Conservancy and University of FL. The panelists will discuss: the NEP model, how it works and its key components; details of each of the three Estuary Programs (how they are funded, membership, organizational structure, etc.); and finally, how Deepwater Horizon science funds are being used to support the three programs. The goals of this session are to inform the audience about the NEP model, how that model is being implemented in the Florida Panhandle, how the model can be applied to any watershed and how the NEP model is being used to restore and protect estuaries and their watersheds to guide large-scale management and restoration, and share lessons learned.
Large-Scale Management and Restoration