Monday, December 5, 2011

Task Force Releases Final Strategy for Restoring Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force on December 5 released its final strategy for long term ecosystem restoration for the Gulf of Mexico coastal region, and many of the issues addressed in the plan and its recommended solutions point directly to problems and solutions upstream within the Mississippi River Basin (final strategy available here as a PDF file). The Task Force’s strategy lays out four major goals for Gulf Coast restoration, which include:
  1. Restoring and conserving habitat;
  2. Restoring water quality;
  3. Replenishing and protecting coastal and marine natural resources; and
  4. Enhancing community resilience.
Within each of those four goals, the Task Force identified major actions that it believes require immediate attention.  The full list of those actions can be found in the report (pages 21 - 47).  Those of particular relevance to resource management in the Mississippi River Basin include:
  • Improving sediment management to maximize the quantity and effective use of sediments utilizing what the Task Force calls a “strategic use” approach to sediment management.
  • Restoring and preserving more natural sediment and freshwater distribution river processes.
  • Decreasing and managing excess nutrient levels in the Gulf by developing and implementing state nutrient reduction frameworks.
  • Reduce excess nutrients and hypoxia in coastal waters by focusing restoration measures in priority watersheds.
  • Coordinating and expanding water quality monitoring in support of adaptive management of programs and projects designed to improve water quality.
Along with the announcement of the Strategy release, the Task Force also announced that $50 million in assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service that will be used "to help agricultural producers in seven Gulf Coast river basins improve water quality, increase water conservation and enhance wildlife habitat," and that the Task Force plans to open a local office, headed by Task Force Executive Director John Hankinson, in the Gulf Coast region sometime in mid-December.

The Task Force developed its Strategy based upon its review of existing plans and remedial work, and by conducting public outreach over the last year.  President Barack Obama established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force on October 5, 2010, and it consists of representatives from the five Gulf States and 11 federal agencies.

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