Natural resource trustees are planning early restoration to start addressing impacts to natural resources caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and they’re welcoming ideas for specific restoration and conservation projects in Texas.
In April, the trustees announced an agreement in which BP agreed to provide $1 billion toward early restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico to address natural resource injuries caused by the spill. The trustees are the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, on behalf of the United States Department of Commerce, and state agencies from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Texas trustees include Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), the General Land Office and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Texas will select and implement $100 million in early restoration projects, as will each of the other four Gulf states. The federal trustees, NOAA and DOI, will each select and implement $100 million in projects, and the remaining $300 million will be used for projects selected by NOAA and DOI from proposals submitted by the states.
The early restoration agreement is a first step toward fulfilling BP’s obligation to fund complete restoration of injured public resources, including the lost use of those resources by people who live, work and visit in the area. The full Natural Resource Damage Assessment process will continue until trustees determine the full extent of damages caused by the spill.
“This is a critically important opportunity to invest in the well being of the Texas coast,” said Carter Smith, TPWD’s executive director and a member of the executive committee overseeing NRDA spill restoration efforts. “Any and all suggestions from interested parties about coastal fish and wildlife habitat restoration projects are welcome.”
Early restoration funds can be used for projects such as rebuilding coastal marshes, replenishing damaged beaches, conserving sensitive areas of ocean habitat for injured wildlife, and restoring barrier islands and wetlands that provide natural protection from storms.
Early restoration project selection criteria include whether projects contribute to making the public or the environment whole by restoring lost or injured resources; address one or more specific injuries associated with the spill; restore natural resources, habitats or services of the same type, quality and comparable ecological or human use value to compensate for losses due to the spill; and are feasible and cost-effective.
Other criteria include project cost, likelihood of success and sustainability, value to prevent future injury, avoiding or minimizing adverse impacts from project construction or implementation, benefits to more than one natural resource, and public health and safety.
Any interested parties are encouraged to be a part of the early restoration process by submitting project ideas online on the Give Us Your Ideas web page of the NOAA Restore the Gulf website. Or send comments by regular mail to NOAA Restoration Center, Attn: DWH PEIS Projects, 263 13th Ave South, Suite 166, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. General information about the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process is on TPWD’s NRDA FAQ web page.
Any ideas provided by the public will be added to the list of suggestions already received by the trustees and will be considered for inclusion in the early restoration planning process. Projects selected by the trustees will be made available to the public for review and comment in a draft Early Restoration Plan. Comments received by the trustees will be considered prior to finalizing the plan.