First Gulf Coast Restoration Projects Selected for BP $1 Billion

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, December 14, 2011 (ENS) – Restoration of oyster beds, marshes, dunes and nearshore reefs damaged by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are among the first set of projects proposed today for funding under the $1 billion BP agreed to set aside for early restoration projects.

The Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees today made available for public comment their selection of eight projects worth more than $57 million – two in each of four Gulf Coast states.

“We know that this is just a beginning of what will be an important process to ensure that those responsible for the spill are held fully accountable, and this is a solid start to our restoration efforts,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in New Orleans.

Salazar was touring the P&J oyster company, a family-owned business that has been harvesting oysters in New Orleans’ French Quarter for 130 years.

“By restoring oyster beds, we are ensuring a way of life continues along the Gulf Coast and bolstering the local economy that was hard hit by the Deepwater Horizon spill,” Salazar said.

The first eight projects are:

Pelicans nesting on oily shoreline behind containment booms in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, June 6, 2010. (Photo by Jose-Luis Magana courtesy Greenpeace USA)
  • Louisiana Oyster Cultch Project – St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Lafourche, Jefferson, and Terrebonne Parishes, Louisiana; approximately 850 acres of cultch placement on public oyster seed grounds and construction of improvements to an existing oyster hatchery on Grande Isle. Oyster cultch is fossilized shell, coral or similar materials produced by living organisms placed on the sea floor that provide points of attachment for oysters as they grow. estimated cost: $14,874,300.
  • Lake Hermitage Marsh Creation – NRDA Early Restoration. Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana; approximately 104 acres of marsh creation in Barataria Bay; benefitting brackish marsh in the Barataria Hydrologic Basin; estimated cost: $13,200,000.
  • Mississippi Oyster Cultch Restoration – Hancock and Harrison Counties, Mississippi; 1,430 acres of cultch restoration; benefitting oysters in Mississippi Sound; estimated cost: $11,000,000.
  • Mississippi Artificial Reef Habitat. Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties, Mississippi; 100 acres of nearshore artificial reef; benefitting nearshore habitat; estimated cost: $2,600,000.
  • Marsh Island (Portersville Bay) Marsh Creation – Mobile County, Alabama; protecting 24 existing acres of salt marsh; creating 50 acres of salt marsh; 5,000 linear feet of tidal creeks; benefitting coastal salt marsh in Alabama; estimated cost: $9,400,000.
  • Alabama Dune Cooperative Restoration Project – Baldwin County, Alabama; 55 acres of primary dune habitat; benefitting coastal dune and beach mouse habitat in Alabama; estimated cost: $1,145,976.
  • Florida Boat Ramp Enhancement and Construction – Escambia County, Florida; four boat ramp facilities; benefitting human use in Escambia County, Florida; estimated cost: $4,406,309.
  • Florida (Pensacola Beach) Dune Restoration – Escambia County, Florida; 20 acres of coastal dune habitat; benefitting coastal dune habitat in Escambia County, Florida; estimated cost: $585,898.

The BP early restoration agreement, the largest of its kind ever reached, represents a first step toward fulfilling BP’s obligation to fund the complete restoration of injured public resources, including the loss of use of those resources by the people living, working and visiting the area.

The agreement does not affect the ultimate liability of BP or any other entity for natural resource damages or other liabilities, but provides an opportunity to help restoration get started sooner.

The selection of early restoration projects follows a public process overseen by the Trustees which are: Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the five affected states: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

“Public feedback is of the utmost importance, and we encourage people to submit comments and attend the upcoming public meetings,” said Cooper Shattuck, chair of the Trustee Council Executive Committee, speaking on behalf of the Trustees.

“This is the first step in beginning restoration of injuries caused by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. While continuing to accept project ideas, we will move forward with additional phases of Early Restoration until the entire $1 billion is committed to Gulf Coast restoration,” Shattuck said.

“NOAA will continue to pay close attention to comments submitted by the public as the early restoration process unfolds,” said Monica Medina, principal deputy undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA Trustee Council member. “We also will be working closely with our fellow trustees to help maximize the effectiveness of the projects they have identified for public consideration in the first round of early restoration.”

Today’s announcement builds upon efforts by the Obama administration’s Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force that is working to develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy to return the health and strength back to the Gulf Coast’s wetlands, beaches, reefs and other habitats, and to address the decline to the region’s natural resources in decades past.

Visit www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov to view the selected restoration projects, access public meeting details, and view ways to submit public comment. The public comment period will end February 14, 2012.

The following public meetings are scheduled for early 2012. More details will be made public as they become available.

  • Florida: Wednesday, January 11 and Thursday, January 12
  • Mississippi: Tuesday, January 17; Wednesday, January 18; and Thursday, January 19
  • Alabama: Monday, January 23 and Tuesday, January 24
  • Texas: Thursday, January 26
  • Louisiana: Tuesday, January 31; Wednesday, February 1; and Thursday, February 2
  • Washington, DC: Tuesday, February 7

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