U.S. House Passes Buchanan-Backed Bill to Preserve Sarasota Bay
WASHINGTON – The U.S. House Wednesday passed legislation co-sponsored by Congressman Vern Buchanan to protect Sarasota Bay and other estuaries across the country.
The bill extends the National Estuary Program through 2026 (it’s set to expire next year) and increases funding from $26.5 million annually to $50 million. The law is designed to protect drinking water and natural habitats in areas where saltwater meets freshwater and serves as one of our nation’s most valuable natural resources.
Sarasota Bay is one of only 28 ecosystems in the entire country that have been formally designated by Congress as an “estuary of national significance.” It is home to more than 1,400 native species of diverse plants and iconic wildlife, such as the manatee, the bald eagle, the sea turtle and the bottlenose dolphin. It also contributes nearly $1.8 billion to Florida’s economy, according to the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.
“Sarasota Bay plays a key role in the Suncoast’s thriving economy and serves as a habitat for countless plants and wildlife,” Buchanan said. “I will continue to fight for our estuary so residents and visitors can enjoy the bay for decades to come.”
Additionally, the Protect and Restore America’s Estuaries Act approved Wednesday requires that the estuary programs take into consideration the impact of extreme weather events on estuaries and implement adaption strategies. The bill would also allow the program to provide grants to organizations working to address stormwater runoff, coastal resiliency and sea level rise.
Estuaries, or bodies of water and their surrounding coastal habitats, are typically found where rivers flow into the open sea. They are also some of the most productive ecosystems in the world – many animal species rely on estuaries for primary sources of food, nesting and breeding. Individual estuaries are managed by local leaders with input from local stakeholders. Florida has four of the 28 nationally recognized estuaries in the country including the Sarasota Bay and Tampa Bay. The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program has focused on improving water quality and habitat restoration. Recent goals for the program have included creating more than 25 acres of wetland.
Buchanan has an extensive record of preserving Florida’s waterways and pristine coastline. In 2019, he co-chaired a bipartisan meeting of the 29-member Florida congressional delegation focused on combating red tide, toxic algae and examining other water quality issues. Additionally, the Congressman was one of 38 Republicans to vote to increase funding for the National Estuary Program and evaluate the impact of climate change on estuaries.