An Estuary Program

for St. Andrew/St. Joe Bays

The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Restoration Council (Gulf RESTORE Council, will provide funds to develop and stand-up one place-based estuary program in northwest Florida. Modeled after the National Estuary Program, it will be a locally-driven effort to manage an estuary and its watershed. Four estuaries will be eligible to compete for funding through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process: Perdido/Pensacola/Escambia Bays, Choctawhatchee Bay, St. Andrew/St. Joe Bays, and Apalachicola Bay.

The program is designed to be a locally-driven effort to identify and solve the problems facing a bay and watershed, based on objective, scientific information. The program provides stakeholders with a permanent forum to come together to review information, agree on the problems, and work together to find solutions and funding to address those problems.

If successful, the grant will provide approximately $2 million over five years to stand-up the program: hire staff, establish a permanent forum for stakeholders, and develop a comprehensive plan for the watershed/estuary. Staffing will likely include the program director, head scientist, outreach coordinator, grant writer/scientist, and administrative support.

The Florida State University, Panama City campus, has offered to serve as host organization and will provide administrative and financial management support for the estuary program, along with initial program organizational support. A management group consisting of stakeholders will be established to direct the operations of the estuary program. A subgroup, made up of top officials from key local, federal, and state resource or decision-making organizations, will be the decision-making body. Links to a one-page program description and a more detailed document are below.

The response to the Request for Proposals is due August 1, 2017. To be competitive, a broad spectrum of our community must demonstrate strong support for the program. The St. Andrew/St. Joe Bays system is central to our economy, our identity, and our way of life. Unlike other panhandle watersheds, the entire St. Andrew/St. Joe watershed is in Florida. Two-thirds of our watershed is in Bay County. We control the future of our bay.

Some Initial Action Items

Some initial action items are recommended to increase the chances of our bay being selected:

  • Increase awareness of the Estuary Program initiative in our communities
  • Generate support for the St. Andrew Bay watershed being designated as the first Gulf of Mexico Estuary Program
  • Identify and secure a host for the program (done - FSU Panama City)
  • Pass resolutions in support of a St. Andrew/St. Joe Bays estuary program (see link to Bay County Board of County Commissioners resolution, below)
  • Pass Agreement to Participate (example document being drafted)
  • Agree to sign on to collaborate and act in good faith
  • Agree to identify the goals of the program in collaboration with others
  • Agree to contribute funds and/or in-kind support for technical work
  • Agree to stay science-based
  • Compile list of stakeholders (names and contact information)

Interested people/organizations can ask to be put on the Estuary Program Interested Parties List by sending an email to with the subject line "Subscribe Estuary Program". (Please note that Florida has a very broad Public Records Law. Most written communications to or from State and Local Officials regarding State or Local business are public records available to the public and media upon request. Your email communications may therefore be subject to public disclosure.)


  • Example of Agreement to Participate (coming soon)