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Collaborative Environmental Approach for Development of the Lower Laguna Madre Estuary Program Strategic Plan in South Texas
The National Estuary Program (NEP) is a promising eco-system based approach to improve the water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national importance in the United States. Due to population growth and concomitant development pressure in South Texas, the future of the Lower Laguna Madre (LLM) without an estuary program is problematic. The development of a management plan for the LLM will enable the region to develop local solutions to local problems. The fundamental purpose of this research was to develop a strategic plan for the foundation of the Laguna Madre Estuary Program of the Gulf Coast of Texas. The comprehensive plan provided local communities with information to restore water quality, conversing habitat, and protecting coastal resources along the Gulf coast. The strategic plan was organized along the lines of the NEP program focused on the three most important foundational elements to establish a NEP for the LLM. The three primary Thrust Areas are as follows: (1) the national significance of the Laguna Madre estuary system, (2) the needs and goals for a proposed program, and finally (3) the plan for the sustainability and support to operate and maintain such a NEP. The outcomes of the strategic plan can be used as a model by the decision-makers to promote community resilience and establish integrated local water quality and ecosystem management plans for their respective communities and jurisdictions. Ultimately, the main objective of this project is to assess the ability to integrate science and public policy development for the common good.
Keywords: coastal zone management, Gulf of Mexico, National Estuary Program, governance, environmental planning, program devel-opment, South Texas
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