The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, a group formed by President Barack Obama to create a recovery plan for the Gulf Coast environment, released its final report last month. The group announced $50 million in funds to start the process designed to help the recovery process after the massive oil spill. Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a written statement:
After the Deepwater Horizon disaster, this task force brought together people from across the Gulf Coast in unparalleled ways to talk about how we tackle both the immediate environmental devastation, as well as the long-term deterioration that has for decades threatened the health, the environment and the economy of the people who call this place home. It has all come to this moment — when we move from planning and researching to supporting real, homegrown actions aimed at restoring this vital ecosystem.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will release the $50 million, through its Natural Resources Conservation Service, to help improve water quality, increase water conservation and enhance wildlife habitat in seven Gulf river basins. In Alabama, the Fish River Basin and the Escambia River Basin, which the state shares with Florida, will receive part of the money. In Mississippi, the Jordan River Basin is included. The task force’s report called for efforts to:
• stop the loss of Gulf wetlands and beaches;
• reduce excess nutrients flowing into the Gulf from agricultural and urban sources; and
• make coastal communities more resilient.
Much of the work, however, will have to wait for progress from two federal efforts that are expected to provide most of the restoration funding. The first is the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), which requires officials to determine the extent of damage following natural disasters, and propose projects to make up for that damage. The companies deemed responsible for the disaster are to bear the expense related to recovery. While BP has paid out over $1 billion for early restoration projects under NRDA, that is just a drop in the bucket. Research continues and the final tally of needed recovery work is still to be determined, but you can rest assured, it will be a huge amount of money. Certainly, it’s a much greater than BP has projected.
The second major source of funding for recovery plans could come from Clean Water Act fines, expected to total between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion. Unfortunately, none of this money is set aside for Gulf restoration under current federal law. But Senators and House Members from the Gulf Coast states are working hard to send 80 percent of the revenue from the spill fines to the Gulf states. Under their plan, much of the fine money could be spent on either environmental or economic recovery efforts. We should all encourage our members of Congress to support this effort.
Source: Associated Press
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