SARASOTA – Sarasota Bay was named as an "estuary of national significance" in the Water Quality Act of 1987. After being designated a National Estuary Program in 1989, local, state and federal officials developed the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) to serve as a framework for specific actions to restore Sarasota Bay.
SBEP was established as a special district in Florida on July 23, 2004, with the signing of an interlocal agreement. The SBEP partners include Sarasota County, Manatee County, City of Sarasota, City of Bradenton, Town of Longboat Key, Southwest Florida Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
SBEP is one of the 28 members of the Association of National Estuary Programs. The Program also works with private contractors and non-profits to complete restoration projects and expand public awareness about the importance of conservation.
Major accomplishments by SBEP and its partners include: significant water quality improvement with a 64 percent reduction in nitrogen pollution since 1988, a notable 46 percent increase in seagrass coverage, restoration and enhancement of approximately 1,200 acres of wetland habitat, deployment of 3,000 habitat modules on 9 new artificial reef sites, establishment of the first oyster re-colonization project, development of research protocols for restoring local bay scallop populations, support for more than 40,000 local students receiving environmental education about Sarasota Bay, and the awarding of more than $232,000 in grant funding to support 113 local organizations. All of the waterways in Sarasota Bay now meet Florida water quality standards for nutrient pollution.
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