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Underwater Obstruction Removal Program Earns Gulf Guardian Award

Sept. 25, 2001

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. - The Underwater Obstruction Removal Program, administered by the Louisiana Office of Conservation in Baton Rouge, La., is one of several 2001 Gulf Guardian award winners from around the Gulf that was recognized at the kick off to the 11th Southern States Environmental Conference being held in Biloxi, Miss., through Thursday at the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center.

Two years ago the Gulf of Mexico Program developed the Gulf Guardian awards as a method of recognizing and honoring the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. 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. Award entries came from the five states bordering the Gulf of Mexico-Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said, "There are a wonderful variety of projects- from seagrass and wetland nursery programs to marine life education and the prevention of nonindigenous species - that are created by concerned individuals who sincerely want to preserve the beauty and vitality of the Gulf of Mexico. Their projects go a long way toward preserving the value of this natural treasure and we appreciate their hard work. The accomplishments of these award winners will help build on the successful initiatives already underway in the Gulf of Mexico Program."

Gulf of Mexico Program Office Director Jim Giattina said, "The Gulf Guardian Award exemplifies what the Gulf of Mexico Program is all about -- innovative solutions that come about when we pool resources and look for creative ways to positively impact our quality of life and economic well-being. Today we honor the people and groups who develop and then implement those solutions."

Accepting the award in the Government Category was Mr. Bruce Ballard, Program Manager.

The Underwater Obstruction Removal Program is eliminating obstructions along the Louisiana coastline, thereby preventing injury to boaters, damage to boats and equipment, and promoting a better environment. The program was established because a concerned group of citizens believed that it was time to stop allowing obstructions in Louisiana's coastal waters to accumulate. It is administered by the Louisiana Office of Conservation. Thirteen survey projects and seven removal projects were completed from January 1998 to the present and have proven the value of the program to the environment and public.

"We are very excited about our Louisiana winners for this years Gulf Guardian Awards," said Dugan Sabins from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, and a partner in the Gulf of Mexico Program. "They are representative of the high quality of our state's professionals and its programs that are addressing issues and problems in our coastal waters."

Also receiving awards today were Tampa Bay Watch's High School Wetland Nursery Program, St. Petersburg, Fla.; the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Law Enforcement Division, Tallahassee, Fla., for the Clean Marina Program; The Pier Aquarium, Inc., St. Petersburg, Fla., for Tampa Bay Walks the Talk; the Mississippi Soil & Conservation Commission, Jackson, Miss., for an Animal Waste Irrigation Demonstration Project; Marilyn Barrett-O'Leary, Baton Rouge, La., with the Louisiana Sea Grant Program for her work with nonindigenous species; the Baldwin County Soil & Water Conservation District, Bay Minette, Ala., for the Weeks Bay Watershed Pollution Prevention Project; The Nature Conservancy, Mississippi Chapter, Ocean Springs, Miss., for the Old Fort Bayou Mitigation Bank; Ruskin Community Development Foundation, Ruskin, Fla., for Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center; Mark Shirley, Abbeville, La., for March Maneuvers; the Adopt-A-Wetland Program, Corpus Christi, Texas, for Wetland Education in Action; and the Choctawhatchee, Pea, and Yellow Rivers Watershed Management Authority, Troy, Ala., for the Unpaved Roads Erosion and Sediment Control Project.

Other winners from Texas awarded in an April 2001 ceremony were the Shell Marine Foundation, Houston Texas, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Washington, D.C., for the Shell Marine Habitat Program; REEF - Reef Environmental Education Foundation, Key Largo, Fla., for the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Fish Survey Project in Galveston, Texas; Will Myers from Austin, Texas, for his work in protecting seagrasses; USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, Cuero, Texas, for the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project; Dow Chemical Company, Freeport, Texas, for Sea Center Texas; Rivers, Lakes, Bays 'N Bayous Trash Bash 2000, Galveston, Texas;

"We began the Gulf Guardian Awards to highlight and honor some of the partnerships and other projects that are helping the environment and water quality in the Gulf States, and in the Gulf of Mexico. We are all one Gulf community and have only one Gulf of Mexico. Projects like this are helping to protect our local coastal waters, which significantly contributes to the Gulf's beauty and value," said Giattina.

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.

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 Louisiana's participation in the Gulf of Mexico Program partnership, or the projects awarded, call Dugan Sabins at 225-765-0246.

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

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