Interior Praises Gulf of Mexico Trustees for Restoration Progress

Phase III Restoration Plan Includes 44 Projects to Help Aid Gulf Coast Recovery in Wake of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today commended the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Trustees for approving the Early Restoration Phase III Plan for 44 early restoration projects across Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, including restoration projects at Breton National Wildlife Refuge and Gulf Islands National Seashore.

“The Trustees have done a comprehensive job of identifying projects to help the Gulf Coast recover from the devastating Deepwater Horizon spill and have given careful consideration to the many insightful public comments received through the process,” Jewell said. “Now we can move forward with these projects that will help restore the natural resources of the region, improve resiliency to hurricanes and other catastrophic weather events and provide an economic boost to local communities.”

The 44 projects are part of the unprecedented agreement with BP to provide $1 billion for Gulf of Mexico restoration before completion of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment. These proposed projects, totaling $627 million, include restoration of marshes, barrier islands, dunes, shorelines and oyster beds, as well as projects to enhance access to recreational opportunities across the Gulf, such as public trails and waterways.

Proposed ecological projects make up nearly $397 million or approximately 63 percent of the total value of early restoration projects. Recreational use projects make up the remaining $230 million. The projects build on the 10 previously approved projects totaling $71 million approved by the Trustees in 2012.

“Ecosystem restoration planning and analysis is technically complex and time consuming,” Jewell said. “The Federal partners, Gulf states and their staff that make up the Trustee Council have worked many long hours to bring much-needed relief to the Gulf resources that were damaged by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Now we look forward to getting to work and helping restore these natural resources as the Gulf Coast continues to recover.”

The Department of the Interior has several projects in the Phase III Plan, including restoration work to address injuries at Gulf Islands National Seashore and Breton National Wildlife Refuge.

The two Gulf Islands National Seashore projects include removing tens of thousands of cubic yards of asphalt fragments and road base material that had been scattered over hundreds of acres and approximately 11 miles of the Fort Pickens and the Santa Rosa areas of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The cost of this clean-up project will be approximately $11 million. Another project to support recreational rehabilitation includes $4 million to cover the purchase of as many as three ferry boats for use in a new passenger ferry service to the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

The third project, restoration of North Breton Island, will provide important habitat for a wide variety of fish, shellfish, birds and other wildlife, which were oiled during the spill. The cost of this project is approximately $72 million.

“When we rebuild barrier islands like North Breton, we're also strengthening coastal resilience, making a smart long-term investment in the face of climate change and increasingly frequent storms,” said Jewell. “After touring the Island last year, it's easy to see that the North Breton Island provides critical habitat for bird nesting and generates benefits for the entire Gulf ecosystem. Habitat like this is vulnerable to human and natural damage and requires careful monitoring to continue keeping this sensitive ecosystem in balance. It's a big part of the reason why Interior is committed to obtaining the greatest benefits for the Gulf as we hold BP and others responsible for the injury caused by the spill.”

Under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, 'early restoration' represents an initial step toward fulfilling the responsible parties' obligations to pay for all natural resource injuries and losses due to the spill. Ultimately, the responsible parties are obligated to compensate the public for the full scope of natural resource injuries caused by the spill, including the cost of assessment and restoration planning. The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment and restoration will continue until the public is fully compensated for the natural resources and services that were lost as a result of the spill.

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