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Gulf of Mexico Initiative

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The Gulf of Mexico Initiative (GoMI) helps producers in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas improve water quality and ensure sustainable production of food and fiber.

Assistance helps producers apply agricultural and wildlife habitat management practices that avoid, control and trap nutrient runoff, reduce sediment transport, reduce over-use of water and prevent saltwater from entering the habitats of many threatened and endangered species. Participants apply through several Farm Bill programs including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.


Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April, 2010, the President established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, a joint federal-state body, to prepare an ecosystem strategy. 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.

NRCS’s Gulf of Mexico Initiative delivers focused water quality, wetland restoration and wildlife habitat improvement projects, and target conservation in seven major river basins in 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. 

Two areas are the focus in Florida:  Middle Suwannee River Area Watershed and Escambia and Blackwater River watersheds.

Gulf of Mexico Initiative's Middle Suwannee River Watershed

Middle Suwannee River Area Watershed

  • Old Grassy Lake
  • Allon Lake
  • Blue Lake
  • Pickel Lake
  • Blue Spring – Suwannee River
  • Peacock Slough
  • Fourmile Creek
  • Sugar Creek
  • Suwannee River Power Plant

The watershed is located in in Suwannee, Madison and Lafayette counties in north central Florida between Jacksonville and Tallahassee along the Middle Suwannee River. 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.

The Middle Suwannee River Area acts as a filter for pollutants entering the Suwannee River, which ultimately enters the Gulf of Mexico.  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.

Gulf of Mexico Initiative's Escambia and Blackwater River Watersheds.‚ÄčEscambia and Blackwater River Watersheds

  • Pond Creek-Blackwater River
  • West Fork-Big Coldwater Creek
  • Lower West Fork-Big Coldwater Creek
  • Canoe Creek
  • Sandy Hollow-Pine Barren Creek
  • Little Pine Barren Creek
  • Big Escambia Creek-Escambia River
  • Hobbs Branch
  • Chumukla Springs
  • Moore Creek
  • Delaney River

The Escambia River and the Blackwater River are two large alluvial rivers that flow south from Alabama through the Florida Panhandle to the Pensacola Bay Estuary and the Gulf of Mexico. Both basins are highly productive, and serve as a nurseries for commercially important shellfish and finfish, as well as a diverse array of flora and fauna.

The basin ecosystems range from mature bottomland hardwood forest to pine uplands, agricultural lands and estuarine marsh. They provide 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 estuaries filter pollutants, provide shoreline stabilization, and offer recreational and educational opportunities for the local population and tourists. In recent years, both watersheds have experienced tremendous swings in rainfall, ranging from extreme drought conditions to historic floods. Problems associated with sedimentation have been exacerbated by poor flushing during droughts and large sediment loads from floods. 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.

National Gulf of Mexico Initiative website

Program Contact
Local USDA-NRCS Service Center