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.

05.28.20 – The next NOAA RESTORE Science Program funding opportunity will be: Planning for Actionable Science. It will be available in August 2020.

05.22.20 – Over the next several months, project teams who received funding from the NOAA RESTORE Science Program in 2017 will be presenting their results as a OneNOAA Science Seminar Series, entitled Actionable Science in the Gulf of Mexico.

04.20.20 – Searching for seaweed is a research program on sargassum and understanding its importance to Gulf fisheries.

04.08.20 – The program announced an additional award from the 2019 competition, “Assessing Long-term Trends and Processes Driving Variability in Cetacean Density throughout the Gulf of Mexico using Passive Acoustic Monitoring and Habitat Modeling.”

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.” The 2020-2024 Strategic Plan is available. Updated funding opportunities are planned regularly.

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

04.17.20 – The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released with video, Remembering Deepwater Horizon, 10 Years Later.

02.28.20 – The NAS Gulf Research Program released their 2020-2024 Strategic Plan.

02.27.20 – The NAS Gulf Research Program is asking for expert nominations to the Standing Committee to Advise the GRP. Nominations are due March 13, 2020.

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.

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.

04.23.20 – In support of the SECAS goal of improving the health, function, and connectivity of southeastern ecosystems by 10 percent in the next 40 years, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is working with The Water Institute of the Gulf through a cooperative agreement titled, “Advancing the goals of SECAS: A program to improve Southeast Conservation Blueprint utility in the Gulf of Mexico.”

03.26.20 – Institute researchers author five journal articles in special issue of Shore and Beach journal “Deepwater Horizon 10 years later.”

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.

05.27.20 – The Florida Trustee Implementation Group announced a Florida bird survey underway.

04.29.20 – The Alabama Trustee Implementation Group announced the acquisition of the East Gateway Tract in Weeks Bay.

04.24.20 – The Louisiana Trustees initiated Restoration Plan #7 for wetlands, coastal, and nearshore habitats and birds.

04.22.20 – The Mississippi Trustee Implementation Group has released its second draft restoration plan for public review and comment until May 22, 2020. The Plan addresses some of the injuries to various coastal habitats and oysters from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Mississippi Restoration Area.

04.20.20 – The National Resource Damage Assessment Trustee Council issued a statement to mark ten years after the incident.

04.17.20 – The Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group has released a draft supplemental restoration plan proposing modifications to the previously approved Cypremort Point State Park Improvements Project. Public comment is being accepted through May 20, 2020.

04.10.20 – The Louisiana TIG approved the Final Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment #6: Restore and Conserve Wetlands, Coastal, and Nearshore Habitats.

04.06.20 – The Louisiana TIG  recently released Louisiana Adaptive Management Status and Improvement Report: Vision and Recommendations. This report identifies opportunities to improve adaptive management of Louisiana coastal restoration by linking monitoring efforts across restoration programs, formalizing and adaptive management process, and focusing on ecosystem outcomes.

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.

05.06.20 – On April 22, 2020, the Council Chair, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, approved the 2019 Mississippi State Expenditure Plan (SEP) Amendment.

04.23.20 – On April 20, 2020, the Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) recommended the Council Chair, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, approve Florida’s State Expenditure Plan (SEP) Amendment #2.

04.21.20 – The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) is seeking public comment on a proposed amendment of its 2015 Funded Priorities List (Initial FPL) to approve implementation funding for the Alabama Comprehensive Living Shoreline Monitoring (AL CLSM) program, sponsored by the state of Alabama. Specifically, the Council is proposing to approve $3,975,000 to implement a 5-year living shoreline monitoring program to monitor and evaluate the success of living shoreline restoration sites in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

04.20.20 – The RESTORE Council marked the 10th year since the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill with a 10-Year Commemoration Report.

03.18.20 – On March 4th, the Council voted to amend voted to amend its 2015 Initial Funded Priorities List (2015 FPL) to approve a cost and time extension for the Gulf Coast Conservation Corps Program (GCCC).

03.18.20 – The Council voted to approve the release of its 2019 Annual Report to Congress.

03.03.20 – On February 12, 2020, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council voted to approve the Funded Priorities List 3a. Specifically, in FPL 3a the Council identified the River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp as a priority for potential future funding, and budgeted $130,000,000 in implementation funds for this project.

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.

05.28.20 – Bay County Florida Board of Commissioners take steps to establish the St. Andrew/St. Joe Bays Estuary Program.

05.18.20 – The Mississippi Based RESTORE Act Center of Excellence (MBRACE) is awarding $2.75M for research on water quality and oyster reef sustainability in Mississippi.

05.08.20 – The Brown Pelican: A True Success Story

05.07.20 – The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) announced the U.S. Treasury Department is awarding $3.2 million to Louisiana’s Center of
Excellence Research Grants Program, the second installment in a RESTORE Act allocation of approximately $26.6 million over 15 years to support research relevant to implementing the CPRA Coastal Master Plan.

04.14.20 – Texas Amended State Expenditure Plan (SEP) Available for Public Comment

04.02.20 – In Alabama, Governor Ivey announced NFWF awarded nearly $24 million to four new Alabama projects.

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.

05.20.20 – The Alabama Barrier Island Restoration Assessment (ABIRA) Final Report is now available on the ABIRA website and can be viewed by clicking on the following link: https://gom.usgs.gov/DauphinIsland/Reports.aspx.

03.19.20 – NFWF Announced two additional projects in Alabama. Nearly $16 million in new Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund awards will improve water quality in Weeks Bay and restore coastal marsh habitat in Mobile County.

03.19.20 – NFWF Announced an additional project in Florida for the Franklin County Living Shoreline.

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.