In recent weeks, there have been several announcements about Gulf restoration and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Here’s a rundown of some of the actions taken.

Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA)
The NRDA Trustees have been busy. In September, the published the Final Phase IV Early Restoration Plan for ten projects estimated at $135 million. A release followed in October of the draft Comprehensive Restoration Plan for the Gulf of Mexico. It coincided with the Department of Justice releasing a proposed Consent Decree to resolve civil claims related to the oil spill. The public comment period for both closed December 4, 2015.

On December 1st, NRDA Trustees published the Draft Phase V Early Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment. It involves four projects in Florida estimated for $34.4 million. A public comment period will be open until December 31st. A public meeting is scheduled for December 14th in Panama City, Florida.

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council)
On Wednesday, December 9th, members of the Council met to approve the first list of funded activities under Bucket 2 of the RESTORE Act, representing a significant investment in restoring key watersheds and estuaries in the Gulf. Hosted by Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi, the Council approved a Funded Priorities List (FPL) that responds to the ecological needs of the region regardless of jurisdictional boundaries. This first FPL focuses on habitat and water quality projects and includes activities for near-term implementation. Details of the FPL and the Bucket 2 process are found on the Council’s website.

In addition to approving the list of activities to be funded by Bucket 2, members of the Council also approved the formula for the Spill Impact Component to be used to calculate the funding determination for Bucket 3 of the RESTORE Act. The formula uses a weighted average of the following three criteria: miles of oiled shoreline, an inverse proportion of the average distance from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig at the time, and an average population of the coastal counties within each state. Funds from Bucket 3 can be used by the Gulf States to support overall economic and ecological recovery of the Gulf Coast consistent with the Council’s Comprehensive Plan.

National Academies of Science Gulf Research Program
The National Academies of Science Gulf Research Program announced on December 10th, the award of nine data synthesis grants. More than $4.4 million will be used in the next two years to support observations and monitoring programs. Learn more about the recipients.

In Mississippi, Governor Bryant announced the Mississippi Multi-Year Implementation Plan (MIP) is available for review and public comment. The MIP is the result of Mississippi’s GoCoast 2020 effort established in 2012 to guide the allocation of funds for Mississippi’s Bucket 1 of the RESTORE Act. The proposed projects are found on the interactive MIP Story Map. The MIP is available for public comment.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality also released the Mississippi Gulf Coast Restoration Plan. The plan is the result of a year-long data collection and stakeholder engagement effort funded by an earlier National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to understand the Mississippi landscape and the restoration priorities of the public. During the planning effort, the Mississippi Comprehensive Ecosystem Restoration Tool (MCERT) and the Decision Support System (DSS) were developed to support science-based decision making for restoration. This plan is also available for public comment.

In Alabama, on December 4th, the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council approved the Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium (Dauphin Island Sea Lab) as the State’s RESTORE Research Center of Excellence. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab has been on the forefront of oil spill since it began in 2010.