PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Florida State University PC announced the launch of a new program on Wednesday, which will work towards making the local bay systems healthier.
The school is partnering with the Bay County government and The Nature Conservancy to create the St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bays Estuary Program.
“We all understand how important this bay is, for not only our recreational use but for our local economy,” said FSU-PC Dean, Randy Hanna. “We’re honored to be a part of this community and hopefully to play a major role in the long-term protection of this bay.”
The bay system and estuary serves as a nursery for marine life among other things, but locals say its health has been declining for years.
“We have seen the degradation of the sea grass,” said Bay County Commissioner and long-time resident, Bill Dozier. “You used to be able to walk along beach drive, pick up scallops, and the oyster harvesting used to be very plentiful here and all that has gone away.”
Now, they’re working to fix that through the program, which is modeled after the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program.
Through scientific research and community help, the program will help shape policies and action plans to improve the bays’ health. It is funded in part through The Nature Conservancy, which has put $1 million toward the program. The Bay County Commission has also amended its RESTORE Act project list to include this project, so that it could be funded with money granted through the Act which was passed after the B.P. Oil Spill in 2010.
Dozier says the program is a step in the right direction.
“It’s the livelihood of the ecosystem,” he said. “It’s important that we do our part to protect it.”
The first phase of the program will span through 2021, building an organizational board and getting community stake-holders involved in the effort.
For more information on the bay and estuary systems and the program itself, click here.