A draft proposal on how Louisiana’s Center for Excellence, to be funded under the RESTORE Act, will operate and distribute grants is now open for public comment until April 17.

The act was passed to funnel 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines toward restoration projects in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. A decision on how much money will eventually be paid in Clean Water Act fines is in the hands of the courts right now.

The draft proposal released Monday deals with one portion of the money, which is the designation of Centers of Excellence in each state affected by the massive oil spill to focus on Gulf of Mexico research.

In its current state, the proposed policy is a reflection of state and federal laws as well as interim final rules for the RESTORE Act funding released by the United States Department of the Treasury. It outlines requirements such as tracking money, the program’s areas of focus and the annual status reports to the state.

The focus of the grants will include coastal restoration, fisheries, wildlife, offshore energy development safety and Gulf of Mexico mapping and monitoring. Although the proposed policy guidance adheres to the state and federal requirements, the public comment period allows comment on all aspects of the program, said Chris Barnes, legal adviser for the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities.

Public comments on these policies will be accepted until April 17 and can be sent by email to coastal@la.gov or through the mail to CPRA, Attn: Jenny Kurz, P.O. Box 44027, Baton Rouge, LA 70804.

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