The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) recently issued a final list of projects and programs (activities) to be funded pursuant to the RESTORE Act. This list of activities is called the Initial Funded Priorities List (FPL), and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) was awarded 2 of these projects. This FPL will use currently available funds for planning and on-the-ground restoration activities in key watersheds across the Gulf.
PROJECT 1: The State of Alabama will distribute $4,342,500.00 in RESTORE funds to the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program for purposes of completing comprehensive Watershed Management Plans for 19 priority watersheds in coastal Alabama. The MBNEP adopted the Watershed Management Planning Protocol and prioritized 31 coastal and intertidal watersheds for the development of standardized comprehensive management plans designed to guide future conservation and restoration efforts. To date, four watershed management plans are complete with implementation projects underway; ten others have been awarded funds through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEBF), and RESTORE funds are approved for nineteen additional priority watersheds. Two of the nineteen priority RESTORE-funded watersheds will be co-funded with NFWF GEBF so that watershed management plans can be completed.
Ecological Benefits/Outcomes and Metrics: The development of Watershed Management Plans is a foundational step in determining the critical ecological restoration needs for the watershed while incorporating best available science and community stakeholder input. Each plan will identify and describe future restoration projects, quantify the expected ecological benefits, identify funding sources, and provide metrics by which to gage success.
PROJECT 2: The Mobile Bay Estuary Program (MBNEP) will receive $358,000.00 in RESTORE funds for project planning activity to include engineering and design of a stream restoration plan for restoring Twelve Mile Creek, one of six main tributaries within the Three Mile Creek Watershed, and for development of an invasive species control program focused on aquatic vegetation in Three Mile Creek; preparation of necessary environmental compliance and regulatory clearances documentation; quality assurance; and pre-restoration monitoring. The Planning activity of the MBNEP RESTORE project will ensure that the implementation phase, if funded, can proceed in a timely and fully compliant manner, and will include adequate baseline monitoring data to measure results following implementation.
The Council has listed the implementation of this project as a priority for potential future funding. If funding is approved for implementation of this activity, The MBNEP would receive an additional $1,742,800.00 to implement the plans and will be responsible for ensuring timely initiation and completion of the project elements, including compliance, monitoring and reporting requirements. This project will lay the foundation for improving dissolved oxygen concentrations within the creek, thus restoring a healthy aquatic ecosystem and fishery and contribute to the opportunity to transform Three Mile Creek, a community liability, into a waterway destination.