New Projects Miss Opportunity to Jump Start Restoration in the Gulf
(NEW ORLEANS, LA) – This week a partnership of Gulf state and federal agencies announced they are approving $627 million in early restoration projects for Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Texas, as part of the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
This announcement is part of the $1 billion agreement BP and government Trustees made in April 2011 to begin the much-needed restoration process in the wake of the largest oil spill in U.S. history. This agreement, the largest of its kind ever reached under NRDA, was a step toward recovery. With this $1 billion “down payment” from BP, people hoped that the healing process of this vast and precious ecosystem could begin.
“This agreement was also an experiment,” says Kara Lankford, Interim Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Gulf Restoration Program, “It would show how the Trustees choose to use NRDA funding in the future, how they work together and how they ensure recovery of the Gulf. Today, the Trustees announced the final list of Phase III early restoration projects, most of which are geared toward addressing lost recreational or human uses. These are important but projects that restore the wildlife and natural systems of the Gulf itself should be our top priority.
“The massive die-off of birds and continuous beaching of high numbers of sick and dead dolphins will not be addressed with the construction of boardwalks and beachfront development for public use. This represents a lost opportunity to also restore our precious natural resources consistent with the intent of NRDA.”
Ocean Conservancy is encouraged that the Trustees are considering a long-term approach to monitoring for the final Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan for the disaster. But we are concerned that some Phase III projects may have negative environmental impacts, and we would encourage further environmental analysis before they begin.
The Trustees were given an unprecedented chance to begin the recovery process with $1 billion, and so far they have largely lost this opportunity to jump-start restoration of this vast and important natural resource.
To arrange an interview with Kara Lankford, please contact John Wark at 850-321-6490.
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