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SBEP Summarizes 2012 Priorities in Support of Sarasota Bay

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SARASOTA, FL – The promotion of low-impact development (LID) techniques, new living shoreline projects, and planning for tributary restoration are some of the 2012 priorities for the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP). SBEP will host two special events this year; the Sarasota Bay Awards Program April 4 and the Sarasota Bay Water Festival October 6. SBEP will also support six community volunteer outings through its Bay Guardian volunteer program in partnership with Around the Bend Nature Tours. The first volunteer outing is set for March 10 at Quick Point Preserve on Longboat Key.

"Working with our major partners, we have made notable progress in restoring Sarasota Bay the past two decades," said Mark Alderson, the program director. Some of the accomplishments cited by Alderson included the completion of many habitat restoration projects, seagrass bed expansion, the reduction of nitrogen pollution in local waters, the development of new artificial reef sites, local oyster re-colonization projects, and major inroads in public education.

"Reducing the impact of stormwater pollution that empties into our Bay and engaging more people to become Bay-friendly stewards are important to our ongoing mission," Alderson added.

"SBEP is a unique organization that connects local, state and national partners in a common goal," explained Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton. "Everyone involved understands that restoring and protecting Sarasota Bay is important to our region’s economy, environment and our individual lifestyles."

"Our region’s reputation as a popular tourist destination is closely tied with the vitality of Sarasota Bay,” added Manatee County Commissioner Michael Gallen. “We are fortunate to have such a beautiful estuary to attract residents and tourists from around the world."

Low impact development (LID) refers to techniques that work with nature to manage rainwater as close to its source as possible. Examples of LID include rain gardens, bio-swales, green roofs, vertical living walls, rain barrels, cisterns, and pervious pavement materials. Sarasota County is a major advocate of low impact development. A LID Expo being sponsored by SBEP is set for March 23 at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota County. The event will showcase area experts who are knowledgeable about LID solutions and products.

Living shorelines refers to waterfronts that feature native plants and natural slopes instead of hardened seawalls constructed of concrete and similar material. Living shorelines absorb rainwater pollution better than impervious surfaces. SBEP along with its partners completed the first living shoreline project in Sarasota Bay at Herb Dolan Park in Bradenton Beach in 2011. Additional demonstration projects are being planned for other locations in Sarasota Bay.

Tributary restoration concerns the various creeks leading into Sarasota Bay. The Technical Advisory Committee with SBEP, consisting of local resource managers and scientists, participated in several workshops at Mote Marine Laboratory in 2011 to better understand the hydrology and challenges that impact on local creeks. A management report will be prepared in the spring that can help guide future restoration efforts.

SBEP has been a catalyst for restoring Sarasota Bay waters and habitat in Sarasota and Manatee Counties since 1989. Its major partners include Sarasota County, Manatee County, City of Sarasota, City of Bradenton, Town of Longboat Key, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Southwest Florida Water Management District, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

SBEP is one of four National Estuary Programs in Florida. The three other programs focus on Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor and Indian River Lagoon located on the east coast. There are 28 National Estuary Programs in the entire U.S. Sarasota Bay was named an estuary of national importance by the U.S. Congress in 1987. The designation helped lay the foundation for the formation of SBEP as one of the National Estuary Programs.
Summary of 2012 SBEP Priorities:
  • Promotion of low-impact development (LID) techniques (A LID Expo is coming March 23).
  • Planning for new living shoreline projects.
  • Planning for future tributary restoration.
  • Six volunteer outings through the Bay Guardian volunteer program (First outing is March 10 at Quick Point Preserve on Longboat Key).
  • Sarasota Bay Awards Program April 4 to present Blue Dolphin Awards to individuals and groups that are champions of Sarasota Bay and the SBEP mission (an invitation only event).
  • Sarasota Bay Water Festival October 6 at Ken Thompson Park to celebrate recreation activities, restoration progress, and ongoing research associated with Sarasota Bay (a free community event).