In response to the growing number of environmental concerns in the mostly pristine Suwannee River basin and the Suwannee River estuary system, the States of Florida and Georgia, the Federal government, and other local organizations identified the Suwannee River as an ecosystem in need of protection because of its unique biota and important water resources. Organizations with vested interests in the region formed a coalition, the Suwannee Basin Interagency Alliance (SBIA), with goals of promoting coordination in the identification, management, and scientific knowledge of the natural resources in the basin and estuary. To date, however, an integrated assessment of the physical, biological, and water resources has not been completed.
A holistic, multi-disciplinary approach was needed to address the research needs in the basin and estuary and to provide supportive data for meeting management objectives of the entire ecosystem. The USGS was well situated to focus on the larger concerns of the basin and estuary by addressing specific research questions linking water supply and quality to ecosystem function and health across county and state boundaries. We were interested in developing a strategic plan in cooperation with Federal, State, and local agencies to identify and implement studies to address the most compelling research issues and management questions, and to conduct fundamental environmental monitoring studies.