On April 20, 2011, the Deepwater Horizon incident began the largest marine oil spill in history. The incident claimed 11 lives and oil spilled for three months before the well was capped. On July 2, 2015, BP Plc announced an agreement in principle to settle the disaster. The Department of Justice issued a Consent Decree on April 4, 2016 resolving the civil claims. Restoration related to the oil spill continues today.

Deepwater Horizon Project Tracker

The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Project Tracker is a centralized directory of projects funded as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It is the most comprehensive picture of the location, type, cost, funding sources, and scope of Gulf of Mexico oil spill-related recovery, restoration, and research projects. Each project snapshot includes a brief project description, a point of contact, and a link to access detailed project information.

Research

NOAA RESTORE Science Program

Under Section 1604 of the RESTORE Act, 2.5% of the Clean Water Act fines are dedicated to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science, Observations, Monitoring, and Technology Program (a.k.a.: NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program). Comprehensive information related to this program, including the science plan, funding opportunities, announcements, and other information are on the NOAA RESTORE Science Program website. A Science Program Framework is available that communicates NOAA’s intent, purpose, and rationale for how it will execute the program according to its responsibilities under the RESTORE Act.

Current information on funded programs is available through the RESTORE Science Program website.

02.04.20 – The Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is pleased to announce the launch of a new study, Long-Term Environmental Trends in the Gulf of Mexico. They invite you to nominate experts to serve on this committee. Nominations are due March 6, 2020.

01.31.20 – The NOAA RESTORE Science Program maintains a funding opportunities calendar for science and restoration initiatives related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The calendar is updated through 2022.

01.17.20 – A project team from Troy University, Geological Survey of Alabama, Galveston Bay Foundation, and Virginia Institute of Marine Science, funded by NOAA’s RESTORE Science Program, is customizing a computer model for simulating the suitability of using a living shoreline to specific locations along the Gulf Coast. Read more.

Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative

The Gulf of Mexico Alliance manages the operational and non-scientific aspects associated with the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). These include proposal planning and preparation, administer research grants, implement research database, budget and financial reporting, website management, and program communications and outreach. Now approaching nearly ten years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the GoMRI Research Board is developing a comprehensive scientific synthesis of what they have learned. The 2020 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference (GoMOSES) is planned for February 3-6, 2020 in Tampa, Florida.

Comprehensive GoMRI information is on gulfresearchinitiative.org.

National Academy of Sciences’ Gulf Research Program

As part of the legal settlements with companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the National Academy of Sciences established a 30-year research program focused on the human health, environmental protection, and oil system safety in the Gulf of Mexico. An appointed Advisory Group released, “Gulf Research Program: A Strategic Vision.” Funding opportunities are planned regularly.

Information about the NAS Gulf Research Program is on the program their website.

01.21.20 – The Gulf Research Program (GRP) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine today announced $2 million in grant awards for seven new projects through its Understanding Gulf Ocean Systems (UGOS) Grants 2 competition. The UGOS grants support projects focused on new theories, technologies, and methodologies to improve understanding and prediction of the Loop Current System (LCS) of the Gulf of Mexico.

01.16.20 – The Gulf Research Program (GRP) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine today announced $7.25 million in grant awards for eight projects focused on strengthening safety culture in the offshore oil and gas industry.

Research Centers of Excellence

By Jennifer McGee

Under Section 1605 of the RESTORE Act, 2.5% of the Clean Water Act fines levied for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are contributed to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, and dedicated to Research Centers of Excellence in each of the five Gulf States. All states have determined their centers.

11.12.19 – The Florida RESTORE Act Centers of Excellence Program is issued a Request for Proposals to establish a (single) West Florida Shelf Standardized Mapping Framework Center of Excellence. Full proposals are due February 10, 2020.

Natural Resource Damage Assessment
NRDA

By Carla Swallow

NRDA is comprised of Co-Trustees that include five Federal agencies (Department of Commerce – NOAA, Department of the Interior, Department of Defense, EPA and Department of Agriculture) and the five Gulf States (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas).

The State and Federal Trustees completed a restoration scoping process for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The process allowed the NRDA Trustees to take a comprehensive look at the types of restoration required to offset potential impacts from the spill on habitat, fish, wildlife, and human use of those resources. The Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan (PDARP) and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) is the restoration plan guiding the Trustees. The restoration plan established restoration areas that have a Trustee Implementation Group (TIG) that comprises state agency and federal agency representatives. The active restoration TIGs are for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Region-wide, and Open Ocean.

Phases I, II, III, IV, and V of Early Restoration have funded projects. Comprehensive Gulf NRDA information is available on www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov. Each TIG has a dedicated section on the site. An interactive map summarizes current projects.

02.14.20 – The Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group is considering changes to the Cypremort Point State Park Improvements Project initially approved in the July 2018 Final Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment #4.

02.10.20 – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection recently hosted a ribbon cutting to celebrate completion of the Salinas Park Addition project in Gulf County, Florida. The $3.2 million Deepwater Horizon restoration project includes a newly acquired seven acre parcel with 1,000 feet fronting the St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve. The Salinas Park’s expansion and amenities were gifted to Gulf County through a partnership with The Trust for Public Land and the Department of Environmental Protection, on behalf of the Florida Trustee Implementation Group. Full story.

01.31.20 – The Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group released a draft supplemental environmental assessment proposing changes to the Point-Aux-Chenes Wildlife Management Area small boat launch project. The comment deadline is March 2, 2020.

01.24.20 – The Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group has approved $507,237 in Monitoring and Adaptive Management (MAM) funding to facilitate the development of a programmatic MAM strategy for the Louisiana Restoration Area. Development of the strategy will refine their restoration objectives.

01.22.20 – The Texas Trustee Implementation Group held its 2019 annual public meeting on December 4, 2019 via an online video presentation. That material is now available.

12.20.19 – The Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group has released a draft supplemental environmental assessment (PDF, 79 pg) proposing changes to the Wetlands Center Project in the Town of Jean Lafitte. The original project was approved in the July 2018 Final Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment #4. If approved, the project would be moved to another location adjacent to the town’s library, multipurpose facility, and Lafitte’s Barataria Museum. Comments are due January 22, 2020.

12.20.19 – The Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group has released a draft restoration plan that proposes three restoration projects for the Wetlands, Coastal, and Nearshore Habitats restoration type. Public comments are due January 21, 2020.

12.20.19 – The Alabama Trustee Implementation Group has approved its third Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment (PDF, 132 pages) to address natural resource injuries from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This restoration plan includes five projects to address lost recreational uses and two projects for the restoration of birds.

12.19.19 – The Open Ocean Trustee Implementation Group held its annual public meeting via an interactive webinar on December 12, 2019. Materials from the meeting are now available.

01.17.20 – The Trust for Public Land initiated the development of a new park in Lynn Haven, Florida. The project is approved through the Florida Trustee Implementation Group’s Phase V Early Restoration Plan. Read more.

12.10.19 – The Deepwater Horizon Open Ocean Trustee Implementation Group released the Final Open Ocean Restoration Plan 2 (PDF, 493 pages) selecting 18 projects totaling almost $226 million to help restore fish, sea turtles, marine mammals and mesophotic and deep benthic communities injured by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Read more.

12.05.19 – In early November 2019, a team of Trustee staff working on behalf of the Alabama Trustee Implementation Group and their project partners met along the shore of Little Lagoon, AL with the goal of restoring part of its eroding shoreline. The Little Lagoon Living Shoreline Project was approved by the trustees in their second restoration plan and the team was more than ready to begin installing native wetland plants. Read more.

RESTORE Act

On July 2012, the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) passed into law. The Act established a new Trust Fund in the Treasury of the United States, known as the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. It received 80% of the civil penalties paid after July 6, 2012, under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Under the Act, amounts in the Trust Fund are available for programs, projects, and activities that restore and protect the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast region.

Much anticipated U.S. Treasury Department rules were released August 13, 2014. On December 14, 2015, Treasury published the Final Rule in the Federal Register. It became effective on February 12, 2016. The Final Rule allows for Gulf Coast states and municipalities to receive funding for environmental restoration and economic development projects. The Final Rule outlines grant programs for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas that established by the RESTORE Act.

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council

Section 1603 of the RESTORE Act established the Council, which comprises of the Governors of the five Gulf Coast States and Cabinet-level officials from six federal agencies. The Council receives 30% of the RESTORE Act Trust Funds and often refers to these as “Bucket 2”. The final comprehensive plan, “Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem & Economy,” addresses actions needed for the Gulf region. On December 9, 2015, the Council voted on the Initial Funded Priorities List, and they approved the regulation for the Spill Impact Component. This regulation established a formula to allocate funds among the Gulf States.

In September 2016, the Council released a Comprehensive Plan Update. The updates address recent developments in Gulf restoration such as the resolution of civil claims against BP for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a source of future funding for the Council’s projects. They also captured important public input and lessons learned from the process of developing and approving its initial Funded Priorities List (FPL). Restoration activities funded through the RESTORE Act, and positions the Council made for the most effective use of funds, were initiated in 2017 and continue. Annual reports to Congress are available up through 2018. Complete information is available on RestoreTheGulf.gov.

02.06.20 – The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) announces plans to vote on whether to approve the final Funded Priorities List (FPL) 3a. FPL 3a describes the Council’s funding decisions for two ecosystem projects administered by the Council pursuant to the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies Act of the Gulf Coast States of 2012 (RESTORE Act). This funding is from the RESTORE Act allocation known as the Council-Selected Restoration Component or Bucket 2.

01.15.20 – The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) seeks public review and comment on a proposed amendment of its 2015 Initial Funded Priorities List (2015 FPL) to approve additional time and funding for the Gulf Coast Conservation Corps (GCCC) Program. The deadline to comment is February 14, 2020.

By Jonathan Veach

Gulf States

In addition to being members of the Restoration Council, the five Gulf States will receive individual portions of the RESTORE Act Trust Funds. Section 1601 of the RESTORE Act evenly divides 35% of the Trust Funds among the five Gulf States, while Section 1602 distributes 30% of the Trust Funds to the Gulf States based on a damage and population formula. Each state is approaching comprehensive restoration and recovery efforts differently.

Alabama: The Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council (AGCRC) is a 10-member council comprised of state and local officials, created with the passage of the RESTORE Act in 2012. The AGCRC adopted a Strategy Map and tapped the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) to serve as administrator. For additional information on the AGCRC, visit restorealabama.org. To learn about other state-specific restoration activities, including NRDA, NFWF, and AGCRC, visit www.alabamacoastalrestoration.org. The AGCRC approved the Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium (Dauphin Island Sea Lab) as the State’s Center of Excellence on December 4, 2015. The center will be called the Alabama Center of Excellence or ACE. The state has active projects, and a map of projects is available.

Mississippi: The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) developed GoCoast 2020 with vast stakeholder input. GoCoast 2020 provides recommendations for restoration initiatives. MDEQ maintains a project submission portal, a story map of approved projects, and other pertinent information on their website. The Mississippi Based RESTORE Act Center of Excellence (MBRACE) was chosen as the Mississippi Center of Excellence.

Florida: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the lead agency for responding to impacts and the resulting restoration process. The FDEP maintains a website complete with resources, links, and newsletters, including an overview of Florida’s response to the oil spill. Each impacted county will engage directly with their communities through the Gulf Consortium and the Florida Association of Counties. Some counties have dedicated web pages or sites – find yours. An online map tool is available to search all Florida proposed projects. The Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) is responsible for FLRACEP, the Florida RESTORE Act Centers of Excellence Program.

Louisiana: The State of Louisiana is represented on the RESTORE Council by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and conducts restoration according to the CPRA Coastal Master Plan. It bases analysis by involving some of the state’s best scientists as well as national and international specialists. Information on Louisiana’s restoration efforts is found by visiting CPRA’s site. The Water Institute of the Gulf is the RESTORE Act Center of Excellence for Louisiana.

Texas: The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality leads the state on oil spill-related restoration and manages the site Restore the Texas Coast. Two Consortia are Centers of Excellence in Texas – the University of Houston: Subsea Systems Institute; and Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi: Texas OneGulf. The Texas State Expenditure Plan (SEP) was approved by the RESTORE Council in March 2019.

01.16.20 – The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority expects to have 28 coastal restoration and flood protection projects publicly bid in 2020. The projects have an approximate construction value of $1.97 billion. Read more.

12.18.19 – The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) has released a draft version of the agency’s annual spending plan for Fiscal Year 2021, which runs from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. The Integrated Ecosystem Restoration & Hurricane Protection in Coastal Louisiana: Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Plan anticipates investing $958 million in Louisiana’s coast. Comments will be accepted through February 15, 2020.  Read more.

12.16.19 – The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) has selected five Louisiana-based organizations to award a total of $1 million in matching funds for projects addressing coastal conservation and restoration. The projects will be funded this fiscal year. Read more.

National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
NFWF

As part of the criminal plea agreements with companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) established the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund for projects benefiting the natural resources of the Gulf Coast that were impacted by the spill. NFWF works in conjunction with the Gulf States to identify projects that will remedy harm and eliminate or reduce future harm to natural resources. Projects were awarded as recently as November 2019. For complete information go to NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund.

01.28.20 – After three successful project years, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and NOAA announced the fourth year of the Deepwater Horizon Oceanic Fish Restoration Project, which began on January 1, 2020.

National American Wetlands Conservation Act Fund

As part of the criminal plea agreement involving the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the National American Wetlands Conservation Act Fund is receiving $100,000,000 for wetlands restoration and conservation benefiting migratory bird species and other wildlife affected by the oil spill. More information is on the NAWCA’s Gulf Restoration site.