Monday, December 05, 2011

Obama Gulf Task Force Releases Final Strategy

Task Force Established by President Obama Releases Final Strategy for Reversing Deterioration of Gulf Ecosystem

USDA $50 million financial assistance for restoration projects announced as Task Force efforts shift from planning to action

Task Force Chair Lisa Jackson
The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force today released its final strategy for long term ecosystem restoration for the Gulf Coast, following extensive feedback from citizens throughout the region. EPA Administrator and Task Force Chair Lisa P. Jackson, partnering with Task Force Co-Chair Garret Graves, made the announcement today during keynote remarks at the 2011 State of the Gulf of Mexico Summit in Houston. Administrator Jackson was joined by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman and several other Task Force members.

The Task Force delivered the final strategy on Friday, Dec. 2 to President Barack Obama, who established the Task Force by executive order, to continue the Administration’s ongoing commitment to the Gulf region. The group is made up of representatives from the five Gulf States and 11 federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, White House Council on Environmental Quality, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of the Interior, Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy and White House Domestic Policy Council.

With the release of the final strategy today, the Task Force marks the beginning of the implementation phase of the strategy by announcing new initiatives, including $50 million in assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to help agricultural producers in seven Gulf Coast river basins improve water quality, increase water conservation and enhance wildlife habitat. USDA's multi-year environmental restoration effort, known as the Gulf of Mexico Initiative, or GoMI, represents a 1,100% increase in financial assistance for Gulf priority watersheds.

The natural resources of the Gulf’s ecosystem are vital to many of the region’s industries that directly support economic progress and job creation, including tourism and recreation, seafood production and sales, energy production and navigation and commerce. Among the key priorities of the strategy are:

1) Stopping the Loss of Critical Wetlands, Sand Barriers and Beaches

The strategy recommends placing ecosystem restoration on an equal footing with historic uses such as navigation and flood damage reduction by approaching water resource management decisions in a far more comprehensive manner that will bypass harm to wetlands, barrier islands and beaches. The strategy also recommends implementation of several congressionally authorized projects in the Gulf that are intended to reverse the trend of wetlands loss.

2) Reducing the Flow of Excess Nutrients into the Gulf

The strategy calls for working in the Gulf and upstream in the Mississippi watershed to reduce the flow of excess nutrients into the Gulf by supporting state nutrient reduction frameworks, new nutrient reduction approaches, and targeted watershed work to reduce agricultural and urban sources of excess nutrients.

3) Enhancing Resiliency among Coastal Communities

The strategy calls for enhancing the quality of life of Gulf residents by working in partnership with the Gulf with coastal communities. The strategy specifically recommends working with each of the States to build the integrated capacity needed through effective coastal improvement plans to better secure the future of their coastal communities and to implement existing efforts underway.

The final strategy was developed following more than 40 public meetings throughout the Gulf to listen to the concerns of the public. (EPA)
Review the final strategy

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