More than six years have passed since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 people and dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil, and later this month officials from state and federal agencies responsible for overseeing recovery efforts will talk about progress made to date.
The meeting is set for Sept. 28 in New Orleans.
“The goal is to basically update the public on where we’ve gone since the (BP) settlement and what we’ve accomplished since the settlement,” said Matt Mumfrey, state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority lawyer.
The Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustee Council was set up soon after the spill under the Oil Pollution Act to determine the impacts of the massive oil spill and evaluate what needed to be fixed. The trustees represent the five Gulf of Mexico states as well as federal agencies including the Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The $20 billion settlement approved by a federal court in April included these natural resource repair programs which will be administered by the council. Since the settlement, the council set up groups to implement the program for each of the five Gulf of Mexico states as well as a group for region-wide issues and the open ocean.
“It was an effort to localize and centralize jurisdiction within one governing body,” Mumfrey said about the implementation groups.
Although the settlement was just finalized months ago, there has been work going on thanks to a 2011 commitment by BP to provide $1 billion as a sort of down payment until the full settlement was approved. This money allowed states to get started on work while the full damage assessment was completed.
In Louisiana, that work has included marsh construction, placement of oyster cultch as well as construction on a group of barrier island projects called the outer coast restoration - which includes North Breton Island, Shell Island, Chenier Ronquille and Caillou Lake Headlands, also known as Whiskey Island. Construction on several of the islands is ongoing with Shell Island expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The future of work in Louisiana is currently being developed by the Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group. The group, made up of state and federal agency representatives, is drafting its first repair plan with a focus on restoring nearshore habitats in Barataria, Terrebonne and Pontchartrain basins, projects on federally managed lands in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, as well as work done for the benefit of birds.
A draft restoration plan is expected to be released by the end of the year.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees meeting will start with an open house at 5:30 p.m. followed by a meeting from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Renaissance New Orleans Pere Marquette French Quarter Area Hotel, Storyville Room at 817 Common St.