There are two basic approaches to improving the quality of our coastal waters. One is to focus on reducing the flow of excess nutrients into our waterways. This includes the move to close the polluting Piney Point storage facility, upgrading aging wastewater infrastructure like the Bee Ridge plant in Sarasota and START’s Healthy Pond Collaborative that works with neighborhoods to enhance their stormwater ponds to help improve water quality downstream.

All these programs are vital to the sustainability of our marine environment. However, they will not reduce the excess nutrients that are already in our waterways. It’s a situation that must be addressed because there is now twice as much nitrogen in Sarasota Bay than there was back in 2000, Seagrass has been reduced by 30%, fish stocks are down and red tide is more prevalent.

The importance of seagrass in sustaining the sea life in our waterways and the role of water-filtering oysters and clams in promoting water clarity is well known in environmental circles. Now we need you to help support restoration of our waterways by telling Florida policy makers to move forward House Bills 9161 and 9255.

HB 9161 calls for a grant of $2.5 million in fiscal year 2022-23 to the Department of Environmental Protection to help fund seagrass, oyster and clam restoration in the three estuaries in Southwest Florida, Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay and Charlotte Harbor. This will be the seed money to attract matching federal funding and additional support from local governments, private enterprise and the general public to help restore the water quality of our estuaries.

HB 9255 calls for $950,000 to the Department of Environmental Protection for the use by Manatee County to place shell to grow new oyster beds and seed live clams in the Manatee River, Sarasota Bay and Tampa Bay accompanied by quantitative research to assess the outcome.

We need you to urge the Florida House Agricultural and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee to move these important water quality bills forward by hitting on the adjacent link here.

Scroll down the list of pending House Bills until you find the two HB numbers 9161 and 9255. Hit on one of the Bill numbers and you will see where you can read more about the bills. To reach the committee members, hit on the area that says Agricultural and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. Then hit on the picture of Committee chair, Josie Tomkow. Then hit Contact Representative beneath her picture and complete the short email form. Your note can be short saying something like “Please move this bill forward to help restore our waterways”.

To reach key policy makers supporting these bivalve bills at their Tallahassee office, call Representative Wil Robinson at (850) 717-5071 and Senators Jim Boyd at (850) 487-5021 and Loranne Ausley at (850) 487-5086. It really is important that we register as much public support as we can to generate this necessary funding for our waterways.

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