Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Gulf environmental groups respond positively to update of restoration plan

Today, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council published an update of its Comprehensive Plan, worth billions, to restore the gulf post-BP oil spill. It augments the original comprehensive plan approved two years earlier.
One of the highlights of the report was that the Council is affirming its commitment to incorporate the best available science, which they note "will evolve over time" and with "changing conditions." One example of a science-based funding priority is developing "science tools to support freshwater inflow restoration" and prioritizing future conservation. Further, the Council is committed to studying the Lower Mississippi River to "support more holistic river management."
The plan's reaffirmation of the Council's commitment to science-based and other funding priorities is consistent with Congressional decree
: projects that are "projected to make the greatest contribution to restoring and protecting the natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, and coastal wetlands of the Gulf region;" large-scale projects to restore and protect natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches and coastal wetlands; projects contained in existing Gulf Coast State comprehensive plans for restoration and protection of the aforementioned; and projects that restore long-term resiliency of the region's ecosystem, fisheries, and the like.
Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said of the update: “For wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, the Deepwater Horizon disaster is not over. More than six years after the well was capped, dolphins are still dying, corals are still damaged, and sea turtles are still struggling to nest. The comprehensive plan as updated would help ensure billions of dollars are spent well on restoring the Gulf. We’re pleased with many elements of the draft—particularly the emphasis on coordination at all levels and the support for efforts at a scale that will deliver cumulative benefits to the Gulf of Mexico.
And Kara Lankford, interim director for Ocean Conservancy’s Gulf Restoration Program, said in a written statement: "
“The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council is headed in the right direction, and we think this updated plan represents progress. This plan update wasn’t due until 2018, so the Council is ahead of schedule. The Council has a huge task ahead to help restore the environment of the Gulf region. Commendably, they have committed to restoring the Gulf ecosystem by working in a more holistic fashion, rather than state by state, or agency by agency. Dolphins and many other Gulf wildlife swim across state lines, and that is why it is necessary for Council members to work together to restore the Gulf ecosystem as a whole. Likewise, we’re pleased to see the Council include a renewed commitment to updating and improving how science will be utilized in its project selection processes.”
The Council will also hold a number of public and Tribal meetings across the Gulf to hear from the public and Tribes regarding this update. The locations, dates, and times for the public meetings can be found at RestoretheGulf.gov.
Caption: By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region - Oil arrives on Bon Secour (La.) Uploaded by AlbertHerring, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29827305