Some coastal restoration projects that have languished in the planning books because of a lack of money got a shot in the arm Wednesday when the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council approved $52 million in Deepwater Horizon project money for the work.
Louisiana’s coastal program stands to receive an additional $541 million from the council via a rule that allocates money based on spill impact. That money will become available once a consent decree with BP becomes final likely next year.
“We believe this is a step in the right direction toward restoring the long term health of coastal Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region,” said Chip Kline, executive assistant to the governor for coastal activities, in a statement.
The money comes from the RESTORE Act which puts 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalties from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill into a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund.
The council includes representatives from the five Gulf of Mexico states as well as six federal agencies. A part of the RESTORE Act money goes to this council for projects and programs the council selects from a list submitted by states and federal agencies.
A final settlement hasn’t been reached for all of the RESTORE Act money, but money is available from previous settlements. Of that, about $241 million is available for the council to spend now. The council’s vote Wednesday approved $139.6 million of that to states and coastal projects.
Environmental groups working on coastal restoration released a joint statement praising the release of the first funded project list while giving their recommendations for the future.
“In order to make progress toward comprehensive restoration, the Council will need a science-based process for prioritizing future projects, with a focus on more large-scale proposals,” a statement from the groups says. “We stand ready to assist the Council and staff as they undertake this critical next step.”
The groups include the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, The Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation and the Environmental Defense Fund.
Although most of the projects included in the initial $52 million list approved Wednesday will go toward planning, engineering and design, the money will help advance shoreline protection, backfilling of oil and gas canals, and marsh creation projects in south Louisiana.