Tampa Bay Estuary Program (FL) Builds Partnerships and Raises Funds with Local Governments through an Interlocal Agreement
Established in 1990, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) has worked diligently to involve local governments and Tampa Bay area citizens in its activities. TBEP adopted a formal Interlocal Agreement in February 1998 that committed 15 partners to achieving the goals of the program's bay restoration plan. Partners included:
- city, county and state governments
- a water management district
- a regional planning council
- a port authority
- the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Goals of the bay restoration plan focus on restoring and sustaining a healthier bay that will support both recreational and commercial uses. Goals are related to improving water and sediment quality, restoring seagrass beds and coastal habitats and reducing bacterial contamination. Partners also committed to improving fish and wildlife regulation and enforcement, managing dredging and dredged material and increasing public education and involvement.
As part of the agreement, local government partners and the water management district pledged to provide financial support to TBEP. Since 2000, they have collectively provided at least $415,000 in cash each year as match toward EPA's portion of cooperative agreement funding.
The following factors contributed to TBEP's success in reaching consensus in the Interlocal Agreement. The water management district's representative on the TBEP Policy Board conceived the idea of an Interlocal Agreement and served as a strong champion of the agreement. An experienced contract attorney, the water management district's representative drafted the agreement and was instrumental in building consensus among stakeholders and overcoming obstacles in the process.
Bay-area partners had been working together on bay management and protection for nearly ten years, dating back to the first Bay Area Scientific Information Symposium (BASIS) in 1982. Several milestones followed BASIS that built a tradition of regional cooperation among bay area scientists and resource managers and enabled consensus on the Interlocal Agreement.
It was also helpful to include incentives for participation into the agreement. For example, participation in TBEP may have been spurred, in part, by a desire to ensure that TBEP followed a non-regulatory approach to resource management. Regulators agreed to extend reasonable flexibility in permitting projects of TBEP partners that helped achieve goals of the bay restoration plan.
Further, a track record of affordable implementation demonstrated that the agreement would be a good investment for the partners. It was estimated that the added cost each year to TBEP's partners for implementing the restoration plan was insignificant compared to their overall budgets.