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Public-private grant program awards $314K for bay protection, restoration and research

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Photo: A roseate spoonbill flies by a sign posted at the bird-nesting islands at the mouth of the Alafia River

An innovative public-private grant partnership will provide more than $314,000 over two years for projects to protect or improve natural resources in Tampa Bay.

Five organizations or agencies are approved for grants from the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund (TBERF). The Fund is managed jointly by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and Restore America's Estuaries (RAE).

TBERF leverages local public and private funds with funds obtained through national philanthropic gifts. Funding comes from the Southwest Florida Water Management District; The Mosaic Company Foundation; Hillsborough County; Pinellas County; US Fish and Wildlife Service, Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission, and Tampa Electric Company.

Because TBERF grants require a 1:1 match, the grants awarded will result in more than $600,000 in benefits to the bay.

TBEP will manage the following grant projects:

Little Manatee River Corridor Restoration ($100,000)
The Southwest Florida Water Management District will design a comprehensive ecosystem restoration plan for 7,166 acres of publicly owned land along the Little Manatee River in southern Hillsborough County.

Seagrass Habitat Improvement using Native Clams ($59,150)
Gulf Shellfish Institute, Inc. will conduct a pilot project to test the effectiveness of using native clams to create water and sediment quality conditions that foster seagrass regrowth.

CCMP Local Government Comprehensive Plan Crosswalk ($30,000)
Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council will provide technical assistance to local governments to incorporate priorities in TBEP's Management Plan for the bay into local comprehensive land use plans.

Restore America's Estuaries will manage the following projects:

McKay Bay South Oyster Reef Creation ($75,011)
Tampa Bay Watch will create 3,170 linear feet of new oyster bars and two large oyster beds along more than a mile of shoreline in McKay Bay.

Colonial Waterbird Management in the Tampa Bay watershed ($50,000 for one year of support)
Audubon Florida staff will post, monitor, survey and manage bird nesting colonies in the Tampa Bay watershed that support 50,000 pairs of 31 species of birds.

A total of $652,500 was available, but not all the proposals received were deemed appropriate for funding by the selection committee. Another call for proposals will be issued in June to allocate the remaining funds in this year's TBERF grant pool.