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Editorial: Tampa Bay’s environmental and economic revival

Local residents who remember when much of Tampa Bay was a polluted, turbid soup can only marvel at the news that researchers report the bay now is as healthy as it’s been in 60 years.

And during a political season when there will be a lot of histrionics about the need to jettison government regulations or get rid of environmental agencies, citizens should know that Tampa Bay’s recovery would not have occurred without tough laws and smart government investments.

To be sure, citizens must always guard against regulatory abuses and federal overreach, but anyone who dismisses the need for reasonable environmental safeguards knows little of Florida’s history.

Back in the 1980s, pollution and development abuses had caused Tampa Bay to lose 81 percent of its original 76,500 acres of seagrasses and 44 percent of its original 25,000 acres of mangrove and salt marshes.

Now local scientists report that seagrasses have grown by more than 9,000 acres since the 1990s, and exceed 40,000 acres — more than the 38,000 acres the Tampa Bay Estuary Program established as a target in 1995.

The seagrass revival is occurring throughout the bay, a telling development because the grass beds require relatively clean water to thrive.