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Effort to improve stormwater ponds aims to clean up Sarasota Bay through grant program

The Healthy Pond Collaborative initiative is expanding into Manatee County to strengthen water quality improvement efforts for Sarasota Bay and address red tide.

Tallevast-based nonprofit Solutions to Avoid Red Tide is partnering with the Manatee County Department of Parks and Natural Resources to help neighborhoods improve stormwater retention ponds through a cost-sharing program and by providing educational material.

The effort is meant to help curb red tide and other water quality issues in Sarasota Bay that worsen as nutrients like nitrogen wash into local waterways from stormwater ponds and other man-made sources.

"We've learned that most of the excess nitrogen in Sarasota Bay is really coming from stormwater, about 65%," START CEO Sandy Gilbert said. "A lot of stormwater flows through community stormwater ponds, so if we can clean some of those up to help take out the nutrients before they flow downstream into the bay, this will clean the bay."

The program was started in 2020 with the help of grant funding and has already bolstered more than two dozen communities in Sarasota County. The expansion into Manatee County is possible because of a $100,000 grant from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation.