Gulf Restoration

Settlement Agreement in Principleoil spill boom

On July 2, 2015, BP Plc announced an agreement in principle to settle  the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. Much legal work is ahead to complete the settlement. A selection of online news stories is available on the DWH Project Tracker website. Connect with the links below to follow the progress of oil spill related entities and activities.

Deepwater Horizon Project Tracker

The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Project Tracker is a centralized directory of projects funded as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It is the most comprehensive picture of the location, type, cost, funding sources, and scope of Gulf of Mexico oil spill-related recovery, restoration, and research projects. Each project snapshot includes a brief project description, a point of contact, and a link to access detailed project information.

dwhprojecttracker Visit the Deepwater Horizon Project Tracker site

Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative

The Gulf of Mexico Alliance manages the operational and non-scientific aspects associated with Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), which includes proposal planning and preparation, administer research grants, implement research database, budget and financial reporting, website management, and program communications and outreach. GoMRI is in its 5th year of operation and is planning the 2016 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference.

Natural Resource Damage Assessment Gulf Restoration Council Draft Initial Comprehensive Plan 5.23.15(1)_Page_01

State and Federal Trustees are undertaking restoration scoping process for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The process will allow the Trustees to take a comprehensive look at the types of restoration that may be required to offset potential impacts from the spill on habitat, fish, wildlife and human use of those resources. The Co-Trustees include five Federal agencies (Department of Commerce – NOAA, Department of the Interior, Department of Defense, EPA and Department of Agriculture) and the five Gulf States (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas).

Phases I, II, and III of Early Restoration have funded projects. Public comment closed July 2015 on ten proposed Phase IV projects; results are pending. In June 2014, NRDA Trustees released, “Assess Plan Restore” – a guide to projects and planning contained in the final Phase III Early Restoration Plan and Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. NRDA workplans and data information can be found via NOAA’s Gulf Spill Restoration web pages. More information can be found through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service here.

RESTORE Act TOC_RESTORE_ACT_flow_chart[1]

In July 2012, the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) was passed into law. The Act establishes a new Trust Fund in the Treasury of the United States, known as the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. It will receive 80% of the civil penalties paid after July 6, 2012, under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Under the Act, amounts in the Trust Fund will be available for programs, projects, and activities that restore and protect the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast region.

Treasure Reg 2014-19324_Page_01The much anticipated U.S. Treasury Department rules were released August 13, 2014. This allows for Gulf Coast states and municipalities to receive funding for environmental restoration and economic development projects. The Interim Final Rule outlines grant programs for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas that were established by the Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States (RESTORE) Act.

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council: Section 1603 of the RESTORE Act established the Council, which is comprised of the Governors of the five Gulf Coast States and Cabinet-level officials from six federal agencies. The Council will receive 30% of the RESTORE Act Trust Funds. The final comprehensive plan, “Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem & Economy” addresses actions needed for the Gulf region. Fact sheets and additional information are available on RestoreTheGulf.org. A Draft Funded Priorities List (FPL) is anticipated for release in August 2015 and will be made available for public comment.

Gulf States: In addition to being members of the Restoration Council, the five Gulf States will receive individual portions of the RESTORE Act Trust Funds. Section 1601 of the RESTORE Act evenly divides 35% of the Trust Funds among the five Gulf States, while Section 1602 distributes 30% of the Trust Funds to the Gulf States based on a damage and population formula. Each state is approaching comprehensive restoration and recovery efforts in a different manner.

Alabama:The Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council (AGCRC) is a 10-member council comprised of state and local officials, created with the passage of the RESTORE Act in 2012. The AGCRC adopted a Strategy Map and tapped ADCNR to serve as administrator. For additional information on the AGCRC, visit restorealabama.org. To learn about other state-specific restoration activities, including NRDA, NFWF and AGCRC, visit www.alabamacoastalrestoration.org. The AGCRC closed a solicitation June 30, 2015  for applications to become Alabama’s Center of Excellence.

Mississippi: The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) developed GoCoast 2020 with vast stakeholder input. GoCoast 2020 provides recommendations for restoration initiatives to make Mississippi whole. MDEQ created a state-of-the-art online program for submission of project ideas for consideration across all funding sources, including RESTORE, NRDA, and NFWF. A Project Map web site is available to view ideas submitted to date. The University of South Mississippi Center for Gulf Studies was chosen as the Mississippi Center of Excellence. Visit Making Mississippi Whole (www.restore.ms) to learn more.

Florida: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the lead agency for responding to impacts and the resulting restoration process. The FDEP maintains a website complete with resources, links, and newsletters, including an overview of Florida’s response to the oil spill. Each impacted county will engage directly with their communities through the Gulf Consortium and Florida Association of Counties. Some counties have dedicated web pages or sites – find yours. The Consortium has meetings planned throughout the year. An online map tool is available to search all Florida proposed projects. The Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) is responsible for Florida’s Center of Excellence. the Center’s first Gulf research awards were announced August 21, 2015.

Louisiana: Restoration in Louisiana will be conducted according to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan. It is based on a two year analysis involving some of the state’s best scientists as well as national and international specialists. The state used this analysis to select 109 high performing projects that could deliver measurable benefits to our communities and coastal ecosystem over the coming decades. The state is represented on the RESTORE Council by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. Information on Louisiana’s restoration efforts can be found by visiting CPRA’s site. Information on Louisiana’s NRDA restoration can be found here.

Texas: Restore the Texas Coast is the Texas website source of information for coastal restoration funding from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A project submission portal is available. Two Consortia were selected to Establish Center of Excellence in Texas and are led by the University of Houston: Subsea Systems Institute; and Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi: Texas OneGulf.

RESTOREScienceProgramFramework_Final_2013_12.pdfʢ__U_T.R__Page_01NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program: Under Section 1604 of the RESTORE Act, 2.5% of the Clean Water Act fines will be dedicated to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science, Observations, Monitoring and Technology Program (a.k.a.: NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program). Comprehensive information related to this program, including the science plan, funding opportunities, announcements, and other information can be found on the NOAA RESTORE Science Program website. A Science Program Framework is available that communicates NOAA’s intent, purpose and rationale for how it will execute the Program according to its responsibilities under the RESTORE Act.

Research Centers of Excellence: Under Section 1605 of the RESTORE Act, 2.5% of the Clean Water Act fines levied for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are to be contributed to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, and dedicated to Research Centers of Excellence in each of the five Gulf States. The states of Florida and Texas have chosen their Centers of Excellence. The states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana are currently following selection procedures.

National Academy of Sciences’ Gulf Research Program

As part of the legal settlements with companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the National Academy of Sciences has established a 30-year research program focused on the human health, environmental protection, and oil system safety in the Gulf of Mexico. An appointed Advisory Group released, “Gulf Research Program: A Strategic Vision.” A first-time exploratory grants program solicitation has closed and applications are being reviewed. Information about the NAS Gulf Research Program can be found at NAS’ Gulf Research Program site.

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund

As part of the criminal plea agreements with companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) will establish the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund to fund projects benefiting the natural resources of the Gulf Coast that were impacted by the spill. NFWF intends to work in conjunction with the Gulf States to identify projects in the states that will remedy harm and eliminate or reduce future harm to natural resources. To date, NFWF has supported 50 projects worth nearly $390 million. Awards of more than $100 million from its Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund are supporting 22 projects in the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. For more information go to NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund.

National American Wetlands Conservation Act Fund

As part of the criminal plea agreement involving the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the National American Wetlands Conservation Act Fund will receive $100,000,000 for the purpose of wetlands restoration and conservation benefiting migratory bird species and other wildlife affected by the oil spill. More information can be found at the NAWCA’s Gulf Restoration site. You can also read about NAWCA through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service here.