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St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bays Estuary Program



September 15, 2021  
1:00 - 4:00 p.m. CT

FSU Panama City 
Holley Academic Center
4750 Collegiate Drive
Panama City, FL



Zoom meeting
or join by phone
Call-in number: (929) 205-6099
Meeting ID: 926 3437 6064

Open to the public with a comment period as part of the agenda

The St. Andrew Bay Watershed in the central Florida Panhandle covers 1,156 square miles that includes the interconnected estuary system of both St. Andrew Bay (West, North, and East bays) and St. Joseph Bay.  This gem of an estuary and watershed is one of the most biologically diverse bays in North America and the only watershed in Northwest Florida located entirely in the state of Florida. Its lakes, streams, and coastal waters sustain numerous species of fish, shellfish, and wildlife. Its wetlands and coastal barriers provide resiliency against storms and coastal change.

This interconnected estuary provides significant ecological, economic, social, and recreational benefits to those living, working or visiting the region. It also offers an essential resource supporting the area maritime industry and naval operations, economic development, tourism and a range of recreational activities.

St. Andrew Bay

A 69,000-acre estuary, is one of the most biologically diverse bays in North America and St. Joseph Bay has the richest and most abundant concentrations of marine grasses along the Northwest Florida coast. The bays are also an essential resource to area maritime and naval operations as well as tourism. 

Bay County and Florida State University are partnering to establish the St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bays Estuary Program. Over the longer term, this program will help provide for the health, enhancement and protection of the Estuary through the development and implementation a plan of action for these valuable resources.

Housed on the FSU Panama City campus, the St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bay Estuary Program will be modeled after the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program. It is funded by The Nature Conservancy, Bay County, and Florida State University Panama City, and is facilitated by the Florida State University Consensus Center.

"The creation of the St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bays Estuary Program, like others in the Florida Panhandle, is a testament to the commitment and engagement of local communities to protect the invaluable resources the Estuary provides."—Andrea Graves, marine project coordinator, The Nature Conservancy in Florida

The first step of the estuary development process is a Stakeholder Assessment conducted by the FSU Consensus Center. They will interview a range of key stakeholders to determine what issues and challenges need to be addressed in the estuary’s Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP), and to help identify potential citizen participants in the estuary program’s Policy Board, Management Council and committees.  

The Stakeholder Assessment Report issued in December 2020 will help frame the initial work of the St. Andrews and St. Joseph Bay Policy Board and the stakeholder Management Council in their work to establish the CCMP.

The Program will announce in January 2021 the creation of a Policy Board, composed of local elected officials and agency expert representatives. The Policy Board will meet in 2021 for organizational meetings regarding the Estuary Program work plan, the recruitment of an executive director and staff, and the appointment of a stakeholder management council. The CCMP is scheduled for completion and adoption by member local governments in 2023.

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Regional Programs

The St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bays Estuary Program completes estuary programs for the entire western Panhandle, joining the Pensacola/Perdido Bays Estuary Program, Choctawhatchee Bay Estuary Program and the Apalachicola Bay System Initiative.


Community-driven effort

The Estuary Program is designed to be a community and citizen-driven effort to work with stakeholders and the public to identify and solve the problems facing the Bays, based on objective, scientific information. It will become a permanent forum that will explore estuary issues, and build consensus on actions and solutions.

Central to the regional economy

The St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bays Estuary system on the Gulf of Mexico is central to our maritime and tourist economy, our identity and heritage, and our way of life. Unlike other panhandle watersheds, the entire St. Andrew and St. Joseph watershed is in Florida primarily in Bay and Gulf counties (82%) with four other counties including Washington (10%), Calhoun (4%) and Jackson (2%) and Walton (2%).