It was with great sadness that we heard of Congressman Bill Young’s death. Although many people are aware of his tremendous support for public health, transportation, sustainable water supplies, and active and retired military personnel, they may not be aware of his pivotal role in the creation of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.
In 1990 Congressman Young reached across the aisle to work with Congressman Sam Gibbons, a Democrat, to sponsor the legislation that established Tampa Bay as one of only 28 “estuaries of national significance.”
Hillsborough County Commissioner Jan Platt was also instrumental in this effort.
The result of this truly bipartisan initiative was an infusion of federal funds to jump-start efforts to restore Tampa Bay through the community partnership that is the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.
In the ensuing 23 years, Tampa Bay has become an international success story. Overall water quality in the bay is now as good as it was in the 1950s, and we are regaining life-sustaining underwater seagrasses at an all-time high average of 730 acres per year, putting us within reach of our goal of 38,000 acres baywide.
In 2011, Congressman Young entered a proclamation into the Congressional Record, recognizing the 20th Anniversary of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and stating that it was “an honor to be a partner in this incredible successful partnership that has made an invaluable contribution to restoring this unique Florida ecosystem.”
Indeed, it has been our great honor to have had Congressman Young’s support and engagement throughout the years. Tampa Bay’s recovery is a testimony to his dedication.
The writer is the executive director of the Tampa Bay Estuary program.