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For Immediate Release: Oct. 24, 2011

Contact: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112,


~Secretary Vinyard announces grants to improve water quality in Florida’s estuaries~


DEP Secretary Vinyard (center) poses with Rookery Bay NERR Manager Gary Lytton (left) and GTM NERR Manager Michael Shirley (right) at today’s announcement.


PONTE VEDRA BEACH – Today, at the annual National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) meeting, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. announced more than $1.4 million in grants awarded to Rookery Bay and Guana Tolomato Matanzas (GTM) NERRs, two of DEP’s three statewide research reserves. The grants were awarded by the NERRS Science Collaborative to advance water quality research.
“Estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems on earth, serving as nurseries for fish and shellfish and providing vital nesting and feeding grounds for coastal birds, sea turtles and marine mammals,” said Secretary Vinyard. “I’m proud of the hard work by these amazing scientists and these grants will help their efforts to ensure continued protection of these important resources.”
All 28 NERRs across the nation were invited to apply for this funding, and of the 19 proposals submitted, DEP’s NERRs were two of only seven awarded. Improving water quality is a top priority of DEP and these grants further support water quality research in the state’s estuaries. In addition, both projects will involve and be guided by local stakeholders’ feedback and target important environmental concerns in local communities.
“Florida coastal communities need relevant, timely information to plan for a future with adequate fresh water and one that is poised to adapt to rising sea levels," said NERRS Science Collaborative Director Richard Langan. "We are extremely pleased to be able to support projects at the GTM and Rookery Bay NERRs that will bring together the perspectives of local landowners, scientists, engineers, regulators and nonprofits to provide the critical information that these communities need to tackle these challenges head on.”
This year’s NERRS meeting is being held at GTM NERR, and is co-hosted by the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA). The annual meeting is a working conference where members share expertise and craft plans for the coming year. Representatives from all 28 NERRs, as well as leadership from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), gather to collaborate and develop short and long term plans, program strategies and goals for every NERR.
“The research produced in Florida will have significant local, regional and national benefits,” said NERRA Executive Director Rebecca Roth. “This federal funding advances the science-based practical help provided by National Estuarine Research Reserves to address the diverse challenges faced by coastal communities today and into the future.” 
The meeting provides an opportunity for the various program sectors to come together to receive relevant, targeted information and training for interdisciplinary colleagues within the NERRS. As the primary planning meeting for the year, attendance by core staff is a grant requirement for NOAA funding to all NERRs. Attendees will participate in research presentations, training, break out groups and field experiences at the GTM NERR facility and around the Jacksonville area. The meeting began today and will last through Friday, Oct. 28, 2011.
Grant Funded Project Information
GTM NERR, located in Ponte Vedra Beach, will be awarded $618,377 over a three-year period for a collaborative project between the NERR and the University of Florida. The study areas will include Summer Haven and Marineland and the beach erosion, dune breaches and barrier island washovers that have occurred there during past storm events. This project will develop and test an improved planning process for adaptation to coastal hazard events in the Matanzas Basin.
“We are honored to receive this grant to help further our research,” said GTM NERR Manager Mike Shirley. “These next three years will involve hard work and dedication by our scientists and researchers as they apply coastal science to issues faced by local decision makers.”
Rookery Bay NERR, located in Naples, will be awarded $815,000 over a three-year period for a water use project and allocation study in collaboration with engineers and other scientists from the private sector. Findings from this project will be used to guide water management efforts and improve water quality in Henderson Creek, the primary source of fresh water for Rookery Bay. Improving water quality and creating healthier environmental conditions directly supports Collier County’s economy by sustaining habitats critical for the success of sport fishing, ecotourism and recreational boating.
“We are excited to begin work using the funds from this prestigious grant,” said Rookery Bay NERR Manager Gary Lytton. “Outcomes of this important research initiative will inform critical decisions about the delivery of needed fresh water to help sustain the health of the Rookery Bay estuary while also meeting the needs of the community.”