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Gulf of Mexico Initiative 2013

 

USDA In Youtube USDA YouTube Video featuring Alabama Farmer Jay Corte of Julio Corte III Farms, a cotton and peanut producer and NRCS Baldwin County DC Joey Koptis.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSLLwGI_QLg

Check out the Alabama GOMI VNR (Feature 6) on the USDA website highlighting Baldwin County DC Joey Koptis, District Supervisor Ronnie Northcutt, and landowner Jay Corte:  http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome

The video is also featured on the NRCS website: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/programs/farmbill/initiatives/?cid=stelprdb1046039

USDA You Tube Channel:  http://www.youtube.com/usda/


The Gulf of Mexico Initiative (GoMI) is designed to help producers in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas improve water quality and ensure sustainable production of food and fiber. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is launching an innovative water and wildlife conservation effort along the Gulf Coast of the United States, which will deliver up to $50 million in financial and easement assistance over 3 years in 16 priority watersheds. This infusion of conservation funds represents an 11-fold increase in conservation assistance in these priority areas.

Assistance will help producers apply sustainable agricultural and wildlife habitat management systems that maintain agricultural productivity; avoid, control, and trap nutrient runoff; and reduce sediment transport. GoMI also will reduce current over-use of water resources and prevent saltwater from entering the habitats of many threatened and endangered species. NRCS programs supporting GoMI are the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, and Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.

GoMI Focus Areas in Alabama

Weeks Bay Watershed

  • Upper Fish River Watershed
     

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Weeks Bay is a small estuary, receiving fresh water from the Magnolia and Fish Rivers that drains a 198-squaremile watershed into Mobile Bay. The Weeks Bay watershed encompasses a rich mosaic of upland and coastal habitats. In 1986, Weeks Bay was designated as the nation’s 16th National Estuarine Sanctuary and the name was changed to the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (one of five Reserves in the Gulf of Mexico region).

Weeks Bay is of great importance to the eastern Mobile Bay System. This highly productive area serves as a nursery for commercially important shellfish and finfish, as well as a diverse array of other flora and fauna. Weeks Bay acts as a filter for nutrients and sediments, provides shoreline stabilization, and offers recreational and educational opportunities for the local population and tourists. The area also serves as important habitat for numerous species of plants and animals, including rare, threatened, and endangered species such as the brown pelican, eastern indigo snake, and the Alabama redbellied turtle. Habitat loss resulting from development, natural erosion processes, sedimentation, dredge-and-fill practices, exotic species, and hydrologic modifications are some of the principle environmental concerns in the region.

The entire length of Fish River, from Weeks Bay to its source, is on the 303(d) list. The initiative will focus on the headwaters of Fish River. The economy in this watershed is heavily dependent on agriculture; however, the watershed has experienced a 37 percent increase in developed land, as reported by the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission. Row crops and livestock production are the major farm enterprises.

Approximately 60 percent of the land in the watershed is used for agriculture or forest management. Agricultural runoff adds sediment, nutrients, pesticides, and bacteria to surface waters.

Escambia River Watershed

  • Canoe Creek
  • Pine Barren Creek-Sandy Hollow  

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The Escambia River is a large alluvial river that flows south from Alabama through the Florida Panhandle to the Pensacola Bay Estuary and the Gulf of Mexico. The Escambia River Basin is highly productive, and serves as a nursery for commercially important shellfish and finfish, as well as a diverse array of flora and fauna.

The Basin ecosystem provides diverse habitats ranging from mature bottomland hardwood forest to pine uplands, agricultural lands, and estuarine marsh. It provides important habitat for numerous species of plants and animals, including more than 85 native freshwater fish species, candidate mussel species, and rare, threatened, and endangered species such as the brown pelican and piping plover.

The estuary also acts as a filter for pollutants, provides shoreline stabilization, and offers recreational and educational opportunities for the local population and tourists.

In recent years, the Escambia River Watershed has experienced extreme drought conditions. Problems associated with sedimentation have been exacerbated by poor flushing and large sediment loads.

Current and historic land uses have left a legacy of polluted sediments that contribute to water quality concerns because of the threats that they pose to human health, aquatic health, and decreased fish and shellfish production.

The major land uses are cropland, forestland, rangeland, and pastureland. Croplands in the area are dominated by row crop agriculture. The major crops are cotton and peanuts, with corn and soybeans as minor crops.

 

Background

Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010, one of the worst man-made environmental disasters our country has ever experienced, the President directed his administration to establish the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, a joint federal-state body. The members of the Task Force were directed by the President to prepare an ecosystem strategy. This strategy is to be the first effort of its kind to be developed with the involvement of parties throughout the region, including the states, tribes, federal agencies, local governments and thousands of interested citizens and organizations.

The strategy will respond to the long-standing decline of the Gulf region’s ecosystem. These natural resources are vital in that they support much of the economic wellbeing of the area – like tourism and recreation, energy production, and fishing and seafood sales. The strategy addresses several key areas of concern, among them stopping the loss of critical wetlands like sand barriers and beaches, reducing the flow of nutrients into Gulf waters, and enhancing the resiliency of coastal communities.

For the last year, the Task Force has listened to the people of the Gulf during more than 40 public meetings and has heard concerns and ideas for moving forward from fisherman, environmental experts, scientists, local officials, concerned citizens and business owners.

On December 5, 2011, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson – as the chair of the Task Force – announced the release of the final restoration strategy. As part of this event, Administrator Jackson and USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman are announcing a new regional conservation initiative developed by NRCS and highlighting the project as the primary example of how the administration will immediately begin implementing the strategy’s recommendations.

After the President’s call for action, NRCS and its partners developed a new regional, multi-year conservation effort to better target and leverage conservation assistance to improve the health of the waters and wildlife in the Gulf. NRCS’s new Gulf of Mexico Initiative (GoMI) will deliver focused water quality, wetland restoration, and wildlife habitat improvement projects in the five Gulf states. The GoMI will target conservation in seven major river basins in the five Gulf of Mexico states – Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Within these river basins, NRCS and its partners are focusing on priority “hot spots” where we believe these investments will have the biggest impact on water quality and wildlife habitat.


 Map of Gulf Of Mexico Initiative Areaa



Click on map for full screen version in PDF format.

Some documents may require  Adobe Reader.  (If you have problems opening a document, contact Fay.Garner@al.usda.gov (Phone: 334-887-4506).

Overall Gulf of Mexico Initiative (NRCS, pdf; 11.0 MB)

Gulf of Mexico Initiative Ranking and Practices (xlsx, 25 KB)

Contacts:

Shannon Weaver
ASTC-Technology
USDA-NRCS
P.O. Box 311
Auburn, Alabama  36831
Phone:  334-887-4533
Steve Musser
ASTC-Programs
USDA-NRCS
P.O. Box 311
Auburn, Alabama  36831
Phone:  334-887-4533