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Rubio, Scott Introduce Legislation to Include Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary Program in the National Estuary Program
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced the Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary of National Significance Act, legislation that would direct the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to formally enroll the Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary Program (PPBEP) into the National Estuary Program (NEP) as an “Estuary of National Significance.”
In an effort championed by Escambia County, Florida, and utilizing award monies from the Deepwater Horizon settlement through the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist, Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States (RESTORE) Act, the PPBEP is close to finalizing its required Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the estuary. Formal enrollment in the NEP would allow the program to leverage federal dollars, in coordination with funding by state and local governments, to address water quality and resource challenges in the estuary. PPBEP’s inclusion in the NEP would help to restore the ecosystem, improve water quality, and stimulate the local economy. Currently, there are 28 NEPs nationwide, including four in Florida.
This bill is supported by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Association of National Estuary Programs, and The Nature Conservancy.
“Florida has made important progress in protecting our prized ecological treasures, and the hard work done by the Pensacola and Perdido Bay Estuary Program further demonstrates Floridians’ commitment to environmental stewardship,” Rubio said. “Enrollment in the National Estuary Program would provide critical support for restoration, conservation, and monitoring efforts in Pensacola and Perdido Bays, and would enhance economic activity in the Florida Panhandle. I will continue to advocate to restore our ecosystems, improve water quality, and boost our economies that depend on an unspoiled environment.”
“Florida’s iconic natural resources are part of what makes our state so special,” Scott said. “That’s why, during my time as Governor of Florida, the state made tremendous progress to protect and preserve Florida’s environment for generations to come. I’m proud to continue these efforts with the Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary of National Significance Act.”
“The Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary Program has demonstrated a commitment to restoring and protecting the water quality and natural resources of their watershed,” Rich Innes, Senior Policy Director for the Association of National Estuary Programs, said. “With active support from Senator Rubio and others, PPBEP has employed a community-based, scientifically-sound approach to enhance resiliency in their estuaries. They would be a welcome addition to the 28 National Estuary Programs who have spearheaded this approach along our nation’s coasts.”
“Since inception in 1987, the 28 National Estuary Programs located around the U.S. and Puerto Rico have been a model in non-regulatory, stakeholder-driven, and science-based decision making,” Matt Posner, Senior Advisor for the Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary Program, said. “With America’s first European settlement at the heart of our estuaries, the Pensacola & Perdido Bays Estuary Program works daily to protect what matters most. We are incredibly grateful to Senator Rubio for sponsoring this legislation to designate Pensacola and Perdido Bays as Estuaries of National Significance. As our estuaries and our work cross both Florida and Alabama, this is an incredible opportunity to work with both states to preserve our way of life while investing in our future.”
“I applaud Senator Rubio’s leadership on this important issue,” Florida Department of Environmental Protection Interim Secretary Shawn Hamilton said. “Florida is a national leader in water protection, and deeply involving local communities in better understanding and managing their own resources is at the very heart of that effort. Ultimately, the addition of a nation-leading fifth National Estuary Program at Pensacola and Perdido Bays replicates a successful model of cooperative management to sustain the environmental quality and economic health of the region, and further demonstrates Florida’s relentless focus on enhancing water quality under Governor DeSantis.”
“The Nature Conservancy has worked in the Pensacola and Perdido Bays watershed for decades to improve water quality, fisheries, and oyster habitats, and to ensure a healthy future for our estuaries and the Gulf of Mexico. The National Estuary Program is a collaborative, efficient, and adaptable ecosystem-based network of organizations that protects and restores 28 estuaries of national significance,” Temperince Morgan, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida, said. “Adding the Pensacola and Perdido Bays to the program is urgently needed and we thank Senator Rubio for introducing the Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary of National Significance Act of 2021. The restoration and preservation of Pensacola and Perdido Bays is a priority that by implementing today, we can strengthen a path of sustainability, protection, and conservation that serves the region for decades to come.”
“The Nature Conservancy has spent decades working in the Pensacola and Perdido Bays watershed. From the headwaters in the piney woods and pitcher plant bogs in Alabama to the tidally influenced islands at their intersections with the Gulf, we have worked with state, federal, and private partners to improve water quality, fisheries, and oyster habitat to ensure a healthy future for our estuaries and the Gulf of Mexico,” Mitch Reid, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Alabama, said. “The National Estuary Program has long been a collaborative, efficient, and adaptable ecosystem-based network of organizations, with an extensive track record of successful restoration and conservation. Adding the Pensacola and Perdido Bays to this program would a tremendous boon to the human and natural communities in coastal Florida and Alabama. We thank Senator Marco Rubio for introducing the Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary of National Significance Act of 2021. This act forges a path of sustainability, protection and conservation that will serve the region for decades to come.”