Gulf Coast Restoration Council Releases Draft Report

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Bon Secour Beach 3

Left over oil and chemicals from the BP oil spill. See more images here. [Click on the image for a larger view]

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council released the a draft report with a plan for restoring the Gulf Coast’s ecosystem and economy this week, along with a draft environmental assessment now available for formal public comment.

The plan provides a framework to implement a coordinated region-wide restoration effort in a way that restores, protects, and revitalizes the Gulf Coast region following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in April 2009, according to a press release announcing the plan’s release.

It establishes overarching restoration goals for the Gulf Coast region and provides details about how the council will solicit, evaluate and fund projects and programs for ecosystem restoration. It outlines the process for the development, review and approval of state expenditure plans and highlights the council’s next steps.

The final plan is expected by the end of the summer of 2013.

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank and council chair announced that Justin Ehrenwerth will serve as the executive director of the council.

In order to ensure “robust public input” throughout the entire process, according to the release, the council is hosting a series of “public engagement” sessions in each of the five impacted Gulf States in June to give the public the opportunity to provide input. The 30-day formal public comment period for the Draft Plan and associated documents began May 23 and ends June 24.

Public meetings to discuss the Draft Plan are scheduled for the following dates and locations:

June 3, 2013: Pensacola, Florida
June 5, 2013: Spanish Fort, Alabama
June 10, 2013: Galveston, Texas
June 11, 2013: Biloxi, Mississippi
June 12, 2013: Belle Chasse, Louisiana
June 17, 2013: St. Petersburg, Florida

In an effort to help the region rebuild in the wake of the oil disaster, Congress passed the bipartisan Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourism, Opportunities Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012, also known as the Restore Act. The council, which was established by the law, was set up to help restore the ecosystem and economy of the Gulf Coast region by developing and overseeing implementation of a comprehensive plan.

“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused extensive damage to the Gulf Coast’s natural resources, devastating the economies and communities that rely on it,” according to the council.

The law dedicates 80 percent of any civil and administrative penalties paid under the Clean Water Act by responsible parties in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund for ecosystem restoration, economic recovery and tourism promotion in the Gulf Coast region.

To view or provide comments on the Plan and associated documents and to get additional details on the upcoming public meetings as they become available, the public can see the draft plan at restorethegulf.gov.

Comments can be submitted here.

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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