OKALOOSA ISLAND — The Emerald Coast Convention Center hosted a Northwest Florida Estuary Program workshop on Wednesday.
The estuary program works to preserve the environment across the Panhandle by combining the resources of Okaloosa, Walton and Washington counties to protect the more than $1.6-billion tourism industry that provides 36,000 jobs.
The program focused on improving water quality through stormwater infrastructure, dirt road paving and habitat restoration.
Commissioners Kelly Windes and Carolyn Ketchel led groups that focused on Choctawhatchee Bay.
The workshop also included officials from Escambia County and the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority.
Estuaries are partially enclosed bodies of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it and a free connection to the open sea, such as Choctawhatchee Bay.
Keynote speaker Holly Greening, the former executive director and senior scientist of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, spoke to the group about the economic value of a healthy bay and the details behind the success of the Tampa Bay Area Estuary.