Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program
The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program – CHNEP is an effort by concerned citizens, public officials, scientists, environmental advocates and others to try and improve the waterways and water quality of the Charlotte Harbor Watershed. The Charlotte Harbor Watershed encompasses 4,700 sq. miles in and around Charlotte Harbor. The area of concern reaches as far north as Venice, Winter Haven to the northeast and Bonita Springs to the south. There are several rivers and estuaries which are included in this area of study including the Myakka and Peace Rivers which empty into the Charlotte Harbor, Caloosahatchee River, Pine Island Sound, and Estero Bay to name a few. The area contains cities, cattle pastures, citrus groves, pine flatwoods and cypress swamps. The boundary of the 4,700 sq mile area can be seen in the illustration at the top of this article. Click on the illustration for a larger image.
The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary became an “Estuary of National Significance” many years after passage of the Clean Water Act by Congress. The Clean Water Act was passed in the 1940’s and amended in 1972 to stop the pollution of our rivers and waterways by industry and other sources. The Charlotte Harbor Watershed is of primary concern for many people because of its size, 17th largest in the nation and 2nd in size as an open water estuary. It is used by many people and tourists for fishing, boating, swimming and as a body of water bordering their homes. Charlotte Harbor is also famous for it’s Tarpon fishing.
The Gulf of Mexico and the rivers feeding into the Gulf of Mexico have been plagued by Red Tides and Algae Blooms which have been intensified by the nutrient laden waters and chemicals that flow into the watershed. Some of the pollutants include activities from farming, pesticides, fertilizers, phosphate mining, urban storm water runoff, underground septic tanks and other sources. The CHNEP established a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan that addresses these and 4 other areas of concern. These are 1. Water Quality 2. Hydrologic Alterations 3. Fish and Wildlife habitat 4. Stewardship Gap Click on the 2013 Summary to read and learn about the latest scientific findings.
Other organizations monitor the water quality and flood protection for this region including 2 state water districts and the Environmental Protection Agency. All citizens and visitors to Southwest Florida who want a clean environment should be interested and support the efforts of CHNEP. They also publish great calendars.
illustration above reprinted with permission from CHNEP