PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Bay County’s waterways make it a unique place. But those waterways are constantly under attack from natural and manmade events.

Flooding, contaminants, and natural disasters are just some of the factors that negatively impact our estuaries.

St. Andrews and St. Joseph’s Bays Estuary program is trying to preserve and restore those waterways before it is too late.

The group kicked off National Estuaries Week on Monday with an open house. The centerpiece is the 10-year conservation blueprint.

“We bring different people together to collaborate and address big issues across the watershed. So, we’re not just focused on what’s in the bays. We’re focused on what goes on in land because everything ultimately drains into the bays,” said St. Andrews and St. Joseph’s Bays Estuary program Executive Director Jessica Graham.

The estuaries are still feeling the impacts of Hurricane Michael, five years after the storm.

“All of our trees are gone. So, we see a lot of flooding still that ultimately goes into the bays,” said Graham.

The program is modeled after the National Estuary Program. It took two years to construct and focuses mostly on preservation and a wide range of goals to be completed within the decade-long timeline.

“Addressing stormwater, wastewater management, kind of the bigger issues. And then we have natural resources and species conservation,” said Graham.

“A lot of things in the bay are really connected to water quality. So if we can figure out what the problem is there, then that can continue to maintain and have successful restoration efforts,” said Estuary Scientist Ryann Rossi.

They’re currently monitoring seagrass. Graham says it can cost as much as $50,000 to restore a single acre of seagrass.

It’s that kind of information that could help people understand more about protecting our estuaries.

“Come out, get involved, we’d love to see you at events, and let us know what the issues are that you feel need to be addressed so that we can all work together to make our bays better,” said Rossi.

Open Houses coming up:

Sept. 19 at Bay County Library 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Sept. 20 at Port Inn Event Hall 1:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Lynn Haven Garden Club 3:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.