Updates on the progress of Gulf restoration nearly four years after the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster.
We have one Gulf and one chance to restore the natural resources we rely on. There has been some progress in the last three years that we should recognize and celebrate, but there is still a lot of work to do.
Since the onset of the spill, Ocean Conservancy has led the charge for a comprehensive approach to restoration. For us, that means restoration of our coastal communities as well as coastal and marine environments. Three years on, the discussion about coastal restoration and economic recovery has grown more robust, but we still have a long way to go.
Determining the full extent of the impacts from the oil spill will take time, and researchers are just beginning to release their findings. This map illustrates impacts they’ve documented in the region so far, including fish with lesions, impacted bluefin tuna spawning habitat and shifts in whale shark abundance and distribution.
Some impacts from the BP oil disaster, such as oiled animals and damaged coral, are visible. But sometimes we can't see the changes in the environment that are unfolding. Scientists have been working hard in labs to determine the full extent of the BP oil disaster. The graphic above shows some of the preliminary findings scientists are beginning to reveal.
We are still responding to and recovering from the BP oil disaster. As decision-makers begin planning and choosing restoration priorities and projects, Ocean Conservancy and the Gulf of Mexico University Research Collaborative (GOMURC) are working to ensure the waters of the Gulf are part of the plan.
The two groups convened a workshop of experts to identify a list of top restoration projects and approaches to help reverse damage from the BP oil disaster and decades of environmental degradation in offshore areas, and promote the economic value of the Gulf’s natural resources.
The Marine Restoration Workshop Report’s focus on offshore areas is meant to complement the significant coastal wetland restoration planning and implementation efforts already underway, and to serve as a catalog for making investments in the restoration of marine resources.
As recovery from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill continues, it is critical that we begin comprehensive environmental restoration across the Gulf – from coastal wetlands to marine waters and from Texas to Florida.
Ocean Conservancy has joined with a group of conservation, environmental and social equity organizations that have worked to support long-term recovery in the region for decades to create a model portfolio of projects that take an integrated and comprehensive approach toward restoring the Gulf. The coalition believes a program of this type will be most effective in helping to rebuild the region’s ecosystems, economies and communities.
In early 2011, the BP Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) trustees and BP announced an unprecedented agreement to provide $1 billion for early restoration to address impacts from the oil disaster.
By December of 2011, the NRDA trustees announced $57 million in restoration projects, such as creating or enhancing oyster habitat, salt marshes and sand dunes in the Gulf states. A second round of early restoration projects were announced in 2012. These projects, totaling $9 billion, will protect bird and sea turtle habitats. Taken together, these projects represent only a fraction of the billion dollars that BP agreed to for early restoration, and it is an even smaller percentage of the total dollar amount BP must ultimately pay if they are going to make good on their promises to support full recovery of the people and natural resources of the Gulf.
The next significant milestone in the NRDA process will be the release of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for restoration of natural resources and services, such as fishing and tourism, lost as a result of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. This document will serve as the foundation for a comprehensive plan that will guide restoration efforts for years to come.
Established by President Barack Obama in October 2010, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force is developing a broad coordinated strategy that sets goals for ecosystem restoration.
In December of 2011, the Task Force released its final restoration strategy, following more than 40 public meetings and extensive feedback from all essential parties throughout the region. The comprehensive strategy document includes a focus on science and the role of adaptive management. It also recognizes the complex challenges that have hindered large-scale restoration efforts in the past.
After the passage of the RESTORE Act, the Task Force was dissolved, but their work will be incorporated into the restoration plans of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.
When the RESTORE Act was passed, it called for the creation of a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to develop a comprehensive restoration plan for the Gulf. The Council has adopted the four ecosystem restoration goals identified by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force:
Additionally, the Council has created a fifth goal to “restore and revitalize the Gulf economy.” Accomplishing this fifth goal will require the achievement of the first four priorities.
Public meetings were held across the Gulf Coast to collect restoration ideas and needs from local citizens. The Council will release its initial Comprehensive Plan to provide an integrated approach to Gulf restoration in July 2013. According to the language of the RESTORE Act, this plan will also focus on specific actions, projects and programs that can be done quickly, while also addressing the long-term recovery of the Gulf.
Passed in the summer of 2012, the RESTORE Act directs 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines paid by BP and other responsible parties toward the places in the Gulf where the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred. The Senate passed the RESTORE Act as an amendment to the transportation bill in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 76-22. The House voted 293-127 in April 2012 to pass the transportation bill, which included the RESTORE Act.
The RESTORE Act will direct funding toward the places where it’s needed most — to execute a comprehensive ecosystem restoration plan and to ensure the future health of the birds, dolphins, sea turtles, fish and, of course, the local communities that greatly depend on our ocean.
In the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, some of the Gulf states have filed legal claims against BP and other responsible parties. These claims will either be resolved by a judge in court or through a settlement and consent decree. The trial to determine liability for the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is currently under way.
The federal and state governments already have settled their claims with MOEX, one of the companies involved. Additionally, BP has agreed to settle for $4 billion to resolve criminal and administrative claims. Transocean will also pay $1.4 billion in civil and criminal penalties, which serves as the first deposit into the RESTORE Act to be used for restoration.
Ocean Conservancy encourages the federal and state governments to resolve pending legal claims in ways that provide the funds needed for a comprehensive restoration program. Ocean Conservancy also advocates for any settlements of legal claims to provide for an effective governance structure for administering restoration funding as well as a reopener clause to ensure that BP stays on the hook for any damages discovered in the future.
If a resolution of claims and liability associated with the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, or other federal or state protections comes about via a trial or consent agreement, a carefully crafted settlement could help provide funding for broad-scale restoration.
Learn how you can help us restore the Gulf of Mexico and other special places across our ocean.