Sarasota Bay to continue receiving funds for conservation
President Obama signs funding reauthorization for National Estuary Program
ANNA MARIA ISLAND – On a sun-kissed afternoon at the outskirts of Leffis Key, the mangrove forest shuts out the sun from reaching its roots. Fiddler crabs disperse at the sound of humans into their hiding places carved out from dark brown dirt. Sarasota Bay, which stretches from the tip of Anna Maria Island down to Lido Key, is where boaters glide across its surface and manatees cruise among the grass beds.
Sunbathers and sea creatures alike can continue to enjoy the bay’s benefits following the reauthorization of the National Estuary Program, signed May 21 by President Barack Obama.
The program allocates $26.5 million per year to the 28 estuary programs in 17 states and territories. Florida has the most estuary programs, with Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Indian River Lagoon and Sarasota Bay to each receive $770,000 for conservation and maintenance programs. Although there was a technical delay in the program from 2010 to 2016, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program still received $600,000 each year.
The priority of Sarasota’s program, said Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Executive Director Mark Alderson, is to improve water quality. The program does that by emphasizing tidal creeks, tributaries, living shorelines and public outreach. Two of the program’s success stories include creating an artificial reef and lowering nutrient amounts in the water, which is a contributing factor to red tide blooms.