Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Plans Move Ahead
The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council has made significant progress in finalizing the processes for implementing large-scale restoration projects throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
Approval of this process means council members can begin submitting projects as early as next month, with project-vetting activities taking place later this fall. The Council will invest in specific actions, projects and programs that can be carried out in the near-term to help ensure on-the-ground results to restore the overall health of the ecosystem.
The Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act) was signed into law early in July 2012. The RESTORE Act allocates 80 percent of the Clean Water Act administrative and civil penalties paid in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund.
The Council was established by the RESTORE Act and includes representatives from the five Gulf States and several federal agencies. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission work closely together on Council activities.
Mimi A. Drew, who serves as Governor Rick Scott’s designee to the Council and is a former Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection said “the state of Florida Gulf restoration priorities align very well with the Council’s Initial Comprehensive Plan goals. The Council-Selected Restoration Component amounts to more than $200 million, and we look forward to the development of many significant restoration projects in Florida.”
The state of Florida will continue to seek broad participation from stakeholders and anticipates convening community conversations to provide information about the project-vetting process as well as to collect input that will inform the development of a draft Funded Priorities List (FPL). Dates and locations can be found on FDEP’s Deepwater Horizon site as more information becomes available.
The projects the Council intends to prioritize for funding will be included on the draft FPL, which the council plans to publish for the public to review in late 2015. After considering all public comment, and making any necessary changes, the Council will finalize the initial FPL and selected projects will be funded with available Transocean settlement funds.
“Two years after the passage of the RESTORE Act, and four years after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, the council is well-positioned to begin the process of selecting restoration projects. These foundational steps will serve to expedite our ability to fund ecosystem restoration projects,” said Justin Ehrenwerth, executive director of the council.
Press Release, July 29, 2014