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Alabama Projects Win 2001 Gulf Guardian Awards


April 20, 2001

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. -- Two Alabama environmental projects were recently named Gulf Guardian Award recipients by the Gulf of Mexico Program. The Weeks Bay Watershed Pollution Prevention Project and the Choctawhatchee, Pea and Yellow Rivers Watershed Management Authority’s Unpaved Roads Erosion and Sediment Control Project were among 18 winners in the five Gulf Coast states of this annual award.

The Gulf of Mexico Program sponsors the awards each year to recognize those individuals, companies, agencies and organizations that are doing their part to keep the Gulf of Mexico healthy and productive.

The Weeks Bay Project provides education and encourages innovative agricultural practices that reduce nonpoint source pollution (sediment) in the watershed. Measures used to control nonpoint source pollution are commonly referred to as Best Management Practices (BMPs). Examples of BMPs in the Weeks Bay project included the purchase of a no-till grain drill that was in turn rented to interested farmers, the restoration of a 17-acre wetland and the purchase of crushed limestone to repair environmentally damaging dirt roads. The project also purchased portable mixing stations to minimize the loss of chemicals used during agricultural activities. The project was funded through the Baldwin County Soil and Water Conservation District.

"We are trying hard to keep Weeks Bay, the Dog River, and the Gulf of Mexico clean and are honored to receive the Gulf Guardian Award for 2001 for our pollution prevention efforts," said Bill Penry, Baldwin county Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor and local farmer.

The Unpaved Roads Erosion and Sediment Control Project of the Choctawhatchee, Pea and Yellow Rivers Watershed Management Authority involved ten counties in southeast Alabama. The authority also produced a "manual of practice" for the maintenance of dirt roads, a video targeting motor grader operators and a series of classroom and field workshops for road crews. More than 125 individuals, including some from Florida and Georgia, attended the training sessions.

"We’ve been amazed at how successful this project as been," said Barbara Gibson, executive director of the watershed management authority in Troy, Ala. "We’ve received requests from all across the U.S. for copies of the manual and video. The project shows that we can maintain the roads and simultaneously minimize the amount of sediment going into our streams, which in turn protects aquatic habitat and enhances natural resource conservation," she added.

"These two particular projects have provided valuable information and resources to help address today’s most critical source of water pollution in our coastal areas," said John Carlton, chief of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management ‘s Mobile branch of the field operations division.

Both projects involved cooperation between federal, state and local governments, private businesses, farmers, landowners, environmental groups and other interested citizens.

"Partnerships are one of the elements that define the Gulf of Mexico Program," said Jim Giattina, program director. "We began the Gulf Guardian Awards to highlight and honor some of the partnership and other projects that are helping the environment and water quality in Alabama, other Gulf states, and in the Gulf of Mexico. We are all one Gulf community and have only one Gulf of Mexico. Projects like these two are helping to protect our local coastal waters, which significantly contributes to the Gulf’s beauty and value," he added.

Representatives of both projects will receive their awards at the 11th Southern States Annual Environmental Conference and Exhibition being held in Biloxi, Miss., Sept. 25-27, 2001. The Alabama winners will join winners from Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana at the end of the first plenary session, which begins at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 25. Those interested can obtain information about the conference on the web at http://www.che.msstate.edu/.

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.

Weeks Bay is located in Baldwin County between Mobile Bay and Bon Secour Bay. The Choctawhatchee and Pea Rivers flow into Choctawhatchee Bay in Florida, while the Yellow River flows into Pensacola Bay. Substantial portions of the watersheds of all three rivers are located in Alabama.

Editor’s Note: For more information about the Gulf Guardian Awards and the Gulf of Mexico Program, call Terry Hines Smith at 228-688-1159. For more information about ADEM, ADEM’s participation in the Gulf of Mexico Program partnership, or the projects awarded, call Clark Bruner at 334-271-7955. For more information about the Southern States Environmental Conference, call Dr. June Carpenter at 662-325-8067.

Gulf of Mexico Program Office
Mail Code: EPA/GMPO
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
FAX: 228-688-2709

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