Newswise — Ocean Springs, MS - On June 15th, two bills were introduced in the United States Congress to designate the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) as a regional coordination entity. Senators Wicker, Cochran, and Cassidy introduced Senate Bill S. 1373 and Congressmen Graves, Palazzo, and Richmond introduced House Bill H.R. 2923. The authorization would make it easier to facilitate regional coordination and collaboration of Gulf of Mexico ecological issues.
The Gulf of Mexico is the ninth largest marine ecosystem in the world. Working across the region under one coordinated effort helps to eliminate duplication and build on common resources.
“Authorization of the Alliance gives the states a larger voice in Gulf planning and confirms our commitment to coordination, reducing duplicate efforts and maximizing leverage opportunities,” noted Commissioner Toby Baker, GOMA Chair from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
The legislation is needed to formalize the regional collaboration that has been taking place since 2004 through the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. GOMA is an inclusive organization that ensures a diversity of stakeholders have a voice. Together, these stakeholders work to enhance the ecological health of the Gulf to support the economies that rely on healthy ecosystems. The Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and other regional water bodies already have similar authorizations in place. Senator Wicker identified this as a key factor in his bill announcement.
As a regional partnership, GOMA’s network focuses on issues of shared concern, including water quality, habitat restoration and conservation, wildlife and fisheries resources, coastal resilience, data and monitoring, and environmental engagement. The partnership is inclusive to federal and state authorities, non-profit organizations, academia, business interests, and Gulf communities.
Both bills have strong regional support. Agencies from the five Gulf States in early agreement of the legislation are the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.