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Gulf of Mexico Initiative (GoMI)

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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) launched 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 Florida

  • Middle Suwannee River Area

  • Old Grassy Lake
  • Allon Lake
  •  Blue Lake
  •  Pickel Lake

National Fact Sheet - Middle Suwannee River Area Watershed (PDF, 705 KB)

The focus area watersheds are located in north central Florida approximately halfway between the cities of Jacksonville and Tallahassee along the Middle Suwannee River in Suwannee and Lafayette counties. The Suwannee River originates in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and flows through North Central Florida for 245 miles before it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Middle Suwannee suffers from water quality concerns over nutrients, sediment and pathogens. The river acts as a filter for pollutants entering the Suwannee River, which ultimately enters the Gulf of Mexico.

The hydrogeology of the area is of karstic nature with closed basins, stream to sink drainage, numerous springs, and an unconfined aquifer with a high degree of recharge potential overlain by sandy, well-drained soils. Major land uses are cropland, forestlands and pastureland, with cropland being dominated by row crop agriculture. This area is extremely vulnerable to ground water contamination.

In addition, the Suwannee River and its floodplain provide some of the most productive wildlife habitats in Florida. It supports at least 54 species of fish, 39 species of amphibians, 73 species of reptiles, 232 species of birds, and 39 species of mammals.

Escambia River Watershed

  • Canoe Creek
  • Pine Barren Creek-Sandy Hollow
  • Little Pine Barren Creek

 

map of Escambia watersheds

National Fact Sheet - Alabama and Florida – Escambia River Watershed (PDF; 872 KB)

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.

Gulf of Mexico Initiative Fact Sheet (PDF)

National Gulf of Mexico Initiative website


Florida Program Contact

Contact your local USDA-NRCS Service Center or

Jeffrey Woods, Assistant State Conservationist for Financial Assistance Programs, 352-338-9515