Restoration of Roberts Bay Shows Partnership Works
By Nancy Stoner
On a beautiful, sunny Florida day last week, I visited Roberts Bay near Sarasota and saw several stormwater and wastewater treatment projects that have restored the bay’s health. It’s remarkable what the Sarasota Bay National Estuary Program has accomplished with a staff of five people. The keys were innovation, partnership and public support for the effort.
Many partners joined the tour, including state and local officials, environmental groups and even engineers that designed the projects. Clearly, they were very proud of their accomplishments and the end result of reducing the nutrient pollution entering Roberts Bay so successfully that it was removed from Florida’s impaired waters list in less than 10 years.
A wide variety of approaches were used to restore Roberts Bay. We went to see several of these innovations. The Celery Fields Regional Stormwater Facility is now crowded with birdlife and birdwatchers. The Honore Avenue low-impact development project used traffic circles to expand capacity on an existing road while also adding stormwater treatment on-site, calming traffic and beautifying the neighborhood. Unlike a traditional road widening project, it’s expected that the Honore Avenue project will help retain, if not increase, the value of homes along the road.
Then we toured a park where sewers have replaced leaking septic systems using a vacuum pumping approach since the area is too flat for gravity sewers. We went inside to see the pumps, which were built in Indiana – that shows that environmental projects create business for American companies.
Then, the best part of the tour – Roberts Bay. We passed by oyster beds and mangroves out into the open water, which had several islands teeming with birds: Louisiana and great blue herons, white and brown pelicans, cattle and great egrets, cormorants, anhingas, and even loons. Also, a group of playful dolphins entertained us so much that we stopped the boat to watch them.
While Roberts Bay was not crowded with boats, there were other pontoons, motorboats and several kayaks out that day, as well as lots of folks in nearby seafood restaurants enjoying the local catch. Sarasota clearly understands the tremendous economic value of these resources to the city and the largest industry in Florida – tourism.
Hats off to the Sarasota Bay National Estuary Program, the City of Sarasota, the Sarasota Water Management District, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and all the other local partners who made this effort so successful.
About the author: Nancy Stoner is Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water.
The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.
EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.
EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.