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.
The Coastal Prairie Region of South Texas is known for its production of cattle, hay, cotton, corn, sorghum, soybeans, and sesame. Recreational opportunities abound in this region with fishing, birding, hunting and nature tourism. The region holds the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, which provides vital resting, feeding, wintering, and nesting grounds for migratory and aquatic birds and native Texas wildlife. The refuge and surrounding areas provide winter habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the whooping crane, peregrine falcon, and piping plover. The warm shallow waters of San Antonio Bay provide shrimp, oysters, and crabs for commercial harvest, and excellent fishing for redfish, speckled trout, black drum, and flounder.
The Gulf of Mexico Initiative (GoMI) is designed to help producers voluntarily implement a combination of core and supporting practices that: reduce the amount of agricultural related nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment leaving the field; reduce agricultural impacts on water quantity; and enhance or maintain wildlife habitat. Three priority watersheds in Texas that run into the confluence of San Antonio River and Guadalupe River are targeted for participation in the new Gulf of Mexico Initiative:
- Kuy Creek - Guadalupe River
- Guadalupe River - South Guadalupe River
- Hynes Bay - San Antonio Bay
The greatest threats to the estuarine ecosystem come from contaminants and loss of habitat. Contamination may come from point sources, such as water treatment plants, or nonpoint sources, such as runoff. Habitat loss can result from alteration of the bay bottom, typically by dredging and trawling, development of wetlands and bay shorelines, and restricting fresh water inflow.
Runoff from cropland, rangeland, and pastureland contributes to sediments affecting the water quality of the three watersheds that run into the confluence of San Antonio River and Guadalupe River. This contributes to the critical health of the San Antonio Bay and estuary system, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
The three focus watersheds contain 150,000 acres, which includes 12,300 acres of cropland; 61,000 of rangeland; 8,000 acres of pastureland; 3,100 acres of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge; 64,000 acres of water; and 1,300 acres of urban lands.