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The Bahia Grande Restoration Project Partners Receive GULF GUARDIAN AWARD


STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – The Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced that the seventy- nine (79) partners associated with the Bahia Grande Restoration Project in Brownsville, Texas will receive a second place Gulf Guardian Award for 2007 in the Partnership Category. The awards will be presented during the 2007 Clean Gulf Conference on November 14, 2007 at the Embassy Suites Hotel, Bayside Ballroom in Tampa, Florida beginning at 6 p.m.

The objectives of this project are to restore the Bahia Grande to its pre-degraded ecological state as a thriving mangrove-lined coastal estuary, and to develop a large, dedicated public support group through educational materials and volunteer activities, as a part of a long term effort (10 years or more). This area is 21,763 acres, located north of State Highway 48, just west of Port Isabel, Texas. The project began with the acquisition of the property in 2000, and its growing partner list includes universities, local/state and national government entities, private foundations, businesses, schools, and families. Community efforts resulted in the construction of a “pilot channel” to connect the Brownsville Ship Channel to the Bahia Grande via culverts in place under State Highway 48. The July 19, 2005 re-flooding of the area abated the blowing dust from the basin, but the substrates of the shoreline need stability. UTB/TSC is leading the efforts to establish native grasses and other plants around the perimeter to secure the sediments and prevent erosion. Plants will bring organic matter to the system, provide shelter, nutrients, and substrate for microorganisms and larval and adult marine animals, enhance the beauty of the area and eventually attract migratory waterfowl. The pilot channel serves as a conduit for allowing marine organisms to migrate freely into Bahia Grande. Accordingly, a biological monitoring program was established to evaluate the ecological changes. Data gathered within the first few months following the 2005 flooding provided an encouraging glimpse of how rapidly the system could recover with adequate tidal exchange.

The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. A first, second, and third place award are given each year in seven categories – individual, business, youth and education, nonprofit organizations, government, partnership and bi-national efforts.

“Gulf Guardian awards showcase accomplishments from a broad spectrum of environmental leaders -- from committed individuals to dynamic corporations,” EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene said. “I applaud their success in preserving the vital resources of the Gulf Coast, one of our most valuable national treasures.”

The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

Bryon Griffith, Director of the Gulf of Mexico Program said “This is the 8th year of the Gulf Guardian Awards Program and I am proud to say that each year the winners in all categories have represented the very best of environmental accomplishments in the Gulf of Mexico. The 2007 award winners truly exemplify the bond that enthusiastic and committed citizens, communities, governments, and businesses share in addressing complex problems to improve, protect, and sustain our regional and national treasure, the Gulf of Mexico.”


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