BRADENTON – U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Longboat Key) announced Friday that he has written a letter to a congressional panel requesting assistance in preserving 28 ecosystems formally recognized by Congress as "estuaries of national significance," including Sarasota Bay.
The letter, which was sent to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies from Buchanan and other Congressional lawmakers, asking IERA Chairman, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Cali.) to "invest directly in the stewardship of our nation's coasts by ensuring that each of the 28 NEPs in the field receives full funding in FY2018."
Estuaries are coastal bodies of water that are a mix of freshwater and saltwater from the sea, serving as connections between rivers and oceans. The National Estuary Program gives funding to restore and protect the quality of the 28 estuaries of the United States. According to the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Sarasota Bay is estimated to hold more than 1,400 native species and is responsible for a yearly influx of almost $1.8 billion into Florida's economy.
"Sarasota Bay plays a key role in the Suncoast's thriving economy and serves as a habitat for countless plants and wildlife. I will continue to fight for our estuary so residents and visitors can enjoy the bay for decades to come," said Buchanan in a statement following sending the letter to Rep. Calvert.
The National Estuary Program was extended through 2021 by President Obama in 2016, giving $132.5 million in financial assistance to states for protecting local estuaries and the wildlife they host.
The full letter to Rep. Calvert is below:
Dear Chairman Calvert and Ranking Member McCollum:
We are writing to thank you for your past support of the National Estuary Program (NEP), and ask you to continue to invest directly in the stewardship of our nation’s coasts by ensuring that each of the 28 NEPs in the field receives full funding in FY2018.
Each National Estuary Program:
- Demonstrates real environmental results through on-the-ground habitat restoration and protection.
- Reflects local environmental and economic priorities
- Involves the community as equal partners and engages the public throughout the decision –making process
- Demonstrates the ability to secure and leverage funds from multiple sources
- Ensures decisions are based on the best science available
- Builds on water quality control measures and tailors them to specific places and communities
- Is non-regulatory
In recent years, NEPs have been on the front lines of issues that demand a scientifically informed, community-based approach. As you know, NEP reforms were made during the 114th Congress through S.1523, which created a competitive grant program to address urgent challenges. We are asking for an additional $5 million of funding to support competitive grants for qualifying NEPs.
As the health of our coastal ecosystems decline, NEPs work to ensure that federal agencies work together with state, regional, NGO and private partners to better manage ocean and coastal resources for the benefit of the nation and to reduce conflicts, redundancies, and inefficiencies that waste time and money. The people who live and work near and on our estuaries have the greatest stake in sound coastal management, best understand the unique challenges and opportunities in those places, and know the right stakeholders to engage in crafting durable and effective solutions. NEPs play a key role in implementing national policies that result in better, more cost-effective coastal management that benefits states and local communities. Thank you for your strong support of these programs, and for considering our request.