The Regional Waterway Management System is a collaborative effort by the four member counties, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, and Manatee, the West Coast Inland Navigation District, and the University of Florida Sea Grant College Program. A principal waterway management issue of the region is balancing the growth of its boating population with conservation and management of its estuarine and riverine resources. The overarching goal is to implement management practices that allow for the simultaneous use and protection of coastal waters, while still maintaining the economic vitality of the coastal communities. This approach evaluates the human ecosystem (boat user) and waterway system (environment) jointly, concurrently, and spatially; and is consistent with municipal, county, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), and WCIND goals of facilitating safe boating and reducing boating impacts on natural resources.
Through The Florida Sea Grant Study of the Regional Waterway System, an inventory of waterways has been developed that represent the principle interests of the District of maintaining waterways that serve an integral part of community use. These waterways consist of various inlets, and both primary and secondary pathways. The waterways allow for commercial and recreational access to destinations such as, boat ramps, parks, marinas, etc. which are open to the public. The study also highlighted several areas of increasing need for attention. Many of these sites have since been addressed; remaining ones continue to seek permits and funding necessary to make the needed improvements.