The St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bays Estuary Program
The St. Andrew Bay Watershed is in the central Panhandle of Florida and covers approximately 2,975 km2 contained completely within the state of Florida. The watershed includes the interconnected estuarine system of St. Andrew Bay, which contains four bays: West Bay, North Bay, St. Andrew Bay and East Bay as well as St. Joseph Bay, Econfina Creek, Deer Point Lake Reservoir, and the Sand Hills Lakes region. This watershed is one of the most biologically diverse in North America and provides significant ecological, economic, social, and recreational benefits.
The importance of a healthy estuary to the success of the region has been recognized by local citizens and community leaders. This focus led to the creation of an Estuary Program modeled after the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Programs. The St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bays Estuary Program is designed to be a locally-driven effort to identify and solve the issues facing our bay systems and the watershed, while being based on objective, scientific information. This program provides stakeholders with a permanent forum to come together in a neutral environment to review information, agree on the priority issues, and work together to find solutions and the funding needed to address these problems. The St. Andrew and St. Joseph Bays Estuary Program’s governance reflects the importance of involving the community at multiple levels, with the highest level composed of local elected officials. Florida State University Panama City campus serves as the host organization for the Program and provides administrative and financial management support.