Water-Related News

Group Works to Keep Pollutants From Degrading Estuary

By Tom Palmer

MATLACHA — Some of the tons of nutrients and other pollutants that flow into stormwater drains in Polk County end up here in Charlotte Harbor, a giant estuary at the mouths of the Peace, Manatee and Caloosahatchee rivers 100 miles downstream from Polk's urban centers.

"Charlotte Harbor started good to begin with; the goal is stop it from declining,'' said Judy Ott, one of the staff members at the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program who specializes in monitoring the health of the various species of sea grass in the area. She was part of a boat tour held Thursday for officials and members of the media.

That monitoring is one of several ways scientists track the health of the 150,000 acres of aquatic preserves that were established between 1970 and 1986 to protect water quality and wildlife habitat here.

The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program exists to maintain and improve the region's resources. It is a partnership supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and brings together diverse interests within the harbor's 4,500-aquare-mile basin, which stretches all the way to Winter Haven.

Along on Thursday's tour was Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Division of Water.