Trustees include 44 projects in $627 million, multi-agency draft plan to restore barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses, oysters, and lost recreation
NOAA and its federal and state trustee partner have urged the public to provide comments on a draft plan to restore the Gulf after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The plan outlines and describes 44 proposed restoration projects, totaling approximately $627 million.
The plan was released by the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, nine federal and state agencies that act on behalf of the public to restore resources directly or indirectly harmed by oil released into the environment following the spill.
The projects included in the plan, The Draft Programmatic and Phase III Early Restoration Plan and Draft Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement,would restore barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses, oysters, and lost recreation. Under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process, the Trustees have proposed projects that seek to address both natural resource and recreational losses caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill contributed to the loss of valuable natural resources all along the Gulf Coast,” said Dr. Mark Schaefer, assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management and NOAA deputy administrator. “NOAA is committed to working in collaboration with partners in the public and private sectors to restore the health of the Gulf of Mexico. We want to engage the public in defining the path forward.”
These projects will be funded through the $1 billion provided to the trustees by BP, as part of the 2011 Framework Agreement on early restoration.
NOAA would take a leading role in executing four of the 44 proposed projects. Under the draft plan, NOAA would partner with Louisiana and the Department of the Interior to fund and execute restoration of beach, dune and back-barrier marsh habitat on Chenier Ronquille, a barrier island off the coast of Louisiana. Chenier Ronquille is one of four barrier islands proposed for restoration as part of the Louisiana Outer Coast Restoration Project. The total cost to restore the barrier islands as identified in this plan is expected to be $318 million.
DWH Phase III NOAA Project Locations - December 2013. (Credit: NOAA)
Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and NOAA would partner to undertake three living shorelines projects. Living shorelines involve a blend of restoration technologies used to stabilize shorelines, provide fish and wildlife habitat, and provide recreational opportunities. The three projects are:
• Alabama: NOAA would partner with the state to implement the proposed $5 million Swift Tract project. This project would construct approximately 1.6 miles of breakwaters covered with oyster shell to reduce shoreline erosion, protect salt marsh habitat, and restore ecosystem diversity and productivity in Mobile Bay. Restoration experts expect that over time, the breakwaters would develop into reefs, providing added reproductive and foraging habitat and shelter from predators.
• Florida: The project, with NOAA partnering, would restore shoreline at two linked sites in Pensacola. Project GreenShores Site II is located immediately west of Muscogee Wharf in downtown Pensacola. Restoration at PGS Site II has been planned in conjunction with the adjoining Sanders Beach site. Both proposed projects would feature breakwaters that protect the coastline and create and restore approximately 18.8 acres of salt marsh habitat and four acres of reefs. Together, the Pensacola projects would cost approximately $11 million.
• Mississippi: NOAA would work with the state to improve nearly six miles of shoreline as part of the proposed Hancock County Marsh Living Shoreline project. The goal of the project is to reduce shoreline erosion by dampening wave energy and encouraging reestablishment of habitat in the region. The estimated cost is $50 million.
Release of the draft plan opens a 60-day public comment period that runs through Feb. 4, 2014. During the comment period, the trustees will hold 10 public meetings across the Gulf states. All meetings will begin with an open house during which trustee representatives will be available to discuss project details. The open house will be followed by a formal presentation and opportunity for public comment. Meeting times, dates and locations are listed on www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.
Ten early restoration projects already are in various stages of implementation as part of the first two phases of early restoration. Updates on these projects are available in an interactive atlas.
Early restoration provides an opportunity to implement restoration projects agreed upon by the trustees and BP prior to the completion of the full natural resource damage assessment and restoration plan. BP and other responsible parties are obligated to compensate the public for the full scope of the natural resource injury caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including the cost of assessing such injury and planning for restoration.
For more than 20 years, NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program has worked cooperatively with federal and state agencies, tribes, industry, and communities to respond to oil spills, ship groundings, and toxic releases. During that period NOAA has protected natural resources at more than 500 waste sites and 160 oil spills, securing more than $2.3 billion from responsible parties.