USA: Officials Unveil First Set of Early Environmental Restoration Projects
Funding from BP’s $1 billion early restoration agreement will accelerate restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico.
State and federal Trustees today unveiled the first set of early environmental restoration projects that are proposed for funding under the landmark agreement BP Exploration & Production, Inc. (BP) signed with the Trustees in April 2011. The eight proposed projects are located in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. Collectively, the projects will restore and enhance wildlife, habitats, the services provided by those habitats, and provide additional access for fishing, boating and related recreational uses. More early restoration projects are anticipated in the future.
Under the unprecedented April agreement, BP voluntarily committed to provide up to $1 billion to fund projects that will accelerate restoration efforts in Gulf Coast areas that were impacted by the Deepwater Horizon accident. The agreement enables work on restoration projects to begin at the earliest opportunity, before all of the studies under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process are complete, and before funding is required by the Oil Pollution Act (OPA).
The Trustees responsible for identifying and implementing the first set of projects are from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, the Department of the Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The public will have the opportunity to review and comment on the initial projects before final approval and funding.
“The Trustees selected projects that are ready to implement quickly and will bring long-term benefits to the region,” said Mike Utsler, Head of BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization. “BP is committed to the Gulf and we look forward to working with state and federal Trustees to identify additional early restoration projects that benefit the Gulf ecosystem and the people who live, work or visit the region.”
The initial projects were proposed for funding after the Trustees sought and received input from members of the public, local officials, environmental organizations and others. The first projects selected are:
– Alabama Dune Restoration Cooperative Project will restore 55 acres of coastal sand dune habitat with native vegetation, protective fencing and informative signs across the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, the Bureau of Land Management Fort Morgan properties, the City of Gulf Shores and the City of Orange Beach.
– Alabama Marsh Island Restoration Project will protect 24 acres of existing salt marsh habitat and create 40 acres of additional salt marsh habitat in Portersville Bay. A permeable breakwater will be constructed in front of the island to reduce erosion of the existing marsh and the additional marsh habitat will be created adjacent to the island.
– Florida Boat Ramp Enhancement Project will repair two existing public boat ramps and construct two new public boat ramps in Escambia County to improve access and provide additional opportunities to the public for water and boating related recreational activities. In addition, new visitor kiosks will be installed to provide educational information to boaters and the public.
– Florida Pensacola Beach Dune Project will restore 20.4 acres of dune habitat near the western end of Santa Rosa Island in Escambia County, Florida with a mix of native dune vegetation along 4.2 miles of beach.
– Louisiana Lake Hermitage Marsh Project will create 104 acres of marsh within the Barataria Hydrologic Basin in Plaquemines Parish. Sediment will be dredged from the Mississippi River and pumped via pipeline to the project area where native vegetation will be planted. The project is a beneficial addition to an existing state approved project.
– Louisiana Oyster Cultch Project will provide 850 acres of productive oyster cultch habitat on public oyster seed grounds in six locations in coastal Louisiana. In addition, improvements will be made to an existing oyster hatchery on Grand Isle, which will produce larvae to be released over the cultch material, stimulating a successful and rapid re-seeding of these areas with oysters.
– Mississippi Oyster Cultch Project will provide approximately 1,430 acres of productive oyster cultch habitat in Hancock County, Harrison County and Jackson County. The oyster cultch will improve the hard bottom habitat and cultch areas needed for larval oyster attachment and growth.
– Mississippi Artificial Reefs Project will create and enhance 67 existing low profile man-made reefs over approximately 201 acres in Mississippi’s near shore waters. This will provide habitat for a variety of fish and shellfish species.
Since the early days following the spill, BP has worked with federal and state agencies to collect the data needed to assess damages to natural resources. More than 150 cooperative studies are underway to assess injury to wildlife and habitat in the Gulf of Mexico. The Trustees used data collected to date to identify injuries and select the first set of projects proposed for early restoration funding.
Funding for the early restoration projects will come from the $20 billion trust BP established in 2010 to meet individual, business and government claims, as well as the costs of natural resource damages.
Dredging Today Staff, December 15, 2011;