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Sarasota Bay Interlocal Agreement Partners and Citizens Receive 1st Place Gulf Guardian Award

Release Date: 09/08/2009
Contact Information: Davina Marraccini, (404) 562-8293,

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – The Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced that the Sarasota Bay Interlocal Partners and Citizens will receive a first place Gulf Guardian Award for 2009 in the Partnership Category. The 2009 Gulf Guardians hold a special significance this year as they will be awarded on the 10th Anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico Program’s Gulf Guardian Awards Program! (2000-2009). The ceremony will be held on the evening of October 29, 2009, beginning at approximately 6 p.m in the Magnolia Ballroom at the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi. The Awards ceremony is being held in conjunction with the Oceans `09 International Conference.

Seagrass recovery was a major element of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Sarasota Bay, Florida. In 1995, a pollutant loading reduction goal of 48% for total nitrogen was set by the Sarasota Bay community. The results have been significant. Approximately 4,040 acres of new seagrass habitat has been created with an additional 5,158 acres converted from patchy seagrasses to continuous beds in Sarasota Bay. Recent data indicates that the seagrass levels are presently 29% above the 1950 level, and the Bay has had a 50% reduction in pollution, mainly as a result of wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) improvements, consolidation of WWTPs and septic tank replacement. Scallops returned to Sarasota Bay in 2008. More than 50 % of the wastewater from wastewater treatment plants is currently reclaimed for alternative use. Stormwater projects have also been implemented regionally to reduce pollution. Citizens Action Plans have been developed and implemented annually by the citizens committee supporting pollution reduction. Fertilizer ordinances have been passed prohibiting nitrogen and phosphorus application during the summer rainy season. Watershed stewardship is a focus supporting the Florida Yards and Neighborhood Program.

The Sarasota Bay Estuary Partners include: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Southwest Florida Water Management District, Manatee and Sarasota County, City of Sarasota, City of Bradenton, Town of Longboat Key, City of Bradenton Beach, City of Holmes Beach and Anna Maria Island; funding has been contributed by all partners and residents to achieve the pollutant load reductions. Sarasota Bay is an Estuary of National Significance, and Outstanding Florida Water and a designated State of Florida Surface Water Improvement Management area.

The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. A first, second, and third place award are given each year in seven categories individual, business, youth and education, nonprofit organizations, government, partnership and bi-national efforts.

A. Stanley Meiburg, Acting Regional Administrator of U.S. EPA Region 4 said, "The Gulf of Mexico is a priceless treasure. As a unique habitat, a place which gives pleasure to countless Americans, and a source of some of our most valuable resources, it has no equal. These Gulf Guardians who labor to protect and enhance this magnificent sea deserve our highest praise and thanks."

The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

Bryon Griffith, Director of the Gulf of Mexico Program said, “The Gulf Guardian Awards Program is in its 10th year of honoring citizens, governments and businesses throughout the 5 State Gulf Region for outstanding environmental achievements. Our 2009 award winners are truly an inspiration and exemplify the high quality of projects being done that generate as much excitement and pride as the award winners did in the beginning. With the addition of the Binational Gulf Guardian award in 2005, we now appropriately pay tribute to the bond we share in protecting this treasured resource with our southern neighbors and friends.”

For a list of all the Gulf Guardian Award winners for 2009, visit the Gulf of Mexico Program web site at and click on the Gulf Guardian Award button.

Editor’s Note: For more information about the Gulf Guardian Awards and the Gulf of Mexico Program, call the Gulf of Mexico Program Office at 228-688-3726 or visit our web site at