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Estuary Program

This program is made possible with the generous financial support of The Nature Conservancy, as well as Bay County and Florida State University, Panama City, which will host the program.

Florida State University Panama City and Bay County are launching an exciting effort to establish for the first time an Estuary Program focused on St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bays.  These two estuaries total 113,000 acres in surface area, within a 1,156 square mile watershed.1 These estuaries provide significant social, economic, recreational and ecological benefits to those living and working in and visiting the region.



This initiative represents a community-based process to develop consensus on a roadmap for the restoration and preservation of the estuary system. The Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP2), to be completed in three years, will seek to align and build the consensus on compatible conservation and economic priorities.  This CCMP will seek to improve overall health and resiliency of the estuaries and watershed and support the investment of resources to make the St. Andrew and St. Joe Bays Estuary Program one of the best in the country.

1 “The St. Andrew Bay watershed spans approximately 740,000 acres of the central Florida Panhandle adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico. The watershed includes the interconnected estuarine system of St. Andrew, West, North, and East Bays; St. Joseph Bay; Econfina Creek and the groundwater contribution area for springs discharging into the creek. The watershed also includes Deer Point Lake Reservoir, Lake Powell and several other coastal dune lakes, and contributing basins and tributaries of all of these waterbodies.” 2017 St Andrew Bay Watershed SWIM Plan

2 The Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) is a long-term place-based plan and science blueprint.  The CCMP serves as a guide to future decisions and establishes priorities for activities, research and funding for the estuary.  The Plan focuses on restoring and conserving habitat (enhancing the health, diversity, and resilience of key marsh habitat and other coastal, estuarine, and marine habitats) and water quality, protecting living coastal and marine resources, enhancing community resilience, and revitalizing the regional economy. See the National Estuary Program for more.

The Estuary Program will be responsible for working with the community on the plan’s development and implementation over the long term.  It will engage communities and guide local governments in the watershed to invest in and implement priority projects to improve the bays, monitor outcomes, and adapt strategies through the ongoing work of the Estuary Program based at FSU Panama City.

The first step of the estuary plan development process is a Stakeholder Assessment conducted by the FSU Consensus Center.  The Center will interview a range of key stakeholders to learn what issues and challenges will need to be addressed in the estuaries’ CCMP and to help identify potential citizen participants in the estuary program’s Policy Board, Management Council and committees.  The stakeholder assessment report, which will be posted on the Program’s website, will help frame the initial work of the St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bays Estuary Policy Board and the stakeholder Management Council in their work to establish the CCMP. 





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