Chiles Group CEO and Gulf Shellfish Institute Board Member Ed Chiles had quite the backdrop to announce the launch of a five-year initiative to help restore three national estuaries.
On a sunny Saturday morning, Chiles announced the launch of “All Clams on Deck” at his Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant in Longboat Key. It is Chiles’ plan to raise a total of $22.5 million for the environmental betterment of Charlotte Harbor, Sarasota Bay and Tampa Bay.
“We will look at all of the areas in these three national estuaries, and say, ‘Where is the best area for clams and where is the best area for seagrass?’” Chiles said. “We don’t want to put seagrass in an area where it doesn’t have a great chance of being successful.”
All Clams on Deck seeks to get support from the federal government, state government, nearby municipalities and Tampa Bay area residents to restore 650 acres of seagrass. The idea is to strategically plant nursery-grown seagrass into areas where it’s died off. The group also seeks to create 30 high-density clam restoration sites.
It is Chiles’ goal to obtain $15 million from the federal government and $2.5 million in state funding to accomplish the initiative.
Chiles said the initial plan is to evenly split the $15 million in federal money between the three estuaries. He said once more data is collected, scientists will help determine which areas need more care.
“We’re going to show that how this community used its intrinsic resources to deal with the problems, and we’re going to be a model for people to go back to their communities and say, ‘This is what we have in our community that we can do to address this issue,’” Chiles said.
Chiles said he’s been working to launch All Clams on Deck since April 2021. He said he could hear within the next 90 days about whether the Gulf Shellfish Institute receives the $15 million in federal support. Chiles said he would seek the advice of the group’s federal lobbyists on the best course of action.
Two Republican members of the Florida legislature — State Sen. Jim Boyd and State Rep. Will Robinson — spoke during Saturday morning’s announcement.
Robinson also said it’s important to prioritize high water quality.
“To Floridians, I think it’s one of the premier bipartisan issues in the legislature, something we all agree on,” Robinson said. “And to me, this is a great bipartisan project.”
Robinson reflected on his Saturday drive into Longboat…