OP-ED: Trump Administration Continues Gulf Restoration: A Decade after Deepwater Horizon

Last edited 04/20/2020

By: Rob Wallace
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks

On April 20, 2010, tragedy struck the Gulf coast. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacted the lives and livelihoods of many across the Gulf states of Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The economic and environmental damage was substantial, and the 11 lives lost that day will never be forgotten. A decade later, much progress has been made, and the Trump Administration has helped lead the restoration, prevention and preparedness efforts in the Gulf.  
As is said, “safety first.” Under President Trump’s leadership, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has been making oil production on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) markedly safer than it was 10 years ago, to help prevent another catastrophe. From 2016 to 2019 alone, the total number of OCS inspections have increased 46%, and the number of BSEE safety initiatives has increased 300%. Likewise, the percentage of production enrolled in the SafeOCS oil and gas safety program has increased nearly 29-fold since 2016, from 3% to 86%. These more robust safety initiatives and increased inspections are vital to making energy development in the Gulf safer.  
We have also worked tirelessly to carry out our responsibilities to restore natural resources and public lands impacted by the spill. Our commitment to restoration is important for many reasons as the health of the Gulf of Mexico is inextricably linked to the quality of life for residents and the economy of the Gulf Region. We have partnered with the five Gulf states, executing on a collaborative Gulf restoration strategy. Some of these partnerships are based on groundbreaking legislation and a historically large and complex legal settlement with BP. Others are voluntary but include non-governmental entities ranging from academia and environmental organizations to other Federal agencies.  
A great deal of our restoration efforts centers upon Interior’s vast portfolio of public lands. These areas provide both habitats essential to the survival of wildlife injured by the spill and venues for recreation for hundreds of thousands of visitors.  
Off the coast of Louisiana, we have initiated the largest restoration project ever undertaken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at North Breton Island, a barrier island within Breton Island National Wildlife Refuge. The island is an important nesting spot for the brown pelican, but it has eroded to only a fraction of the size needed to support these birds. This restoration project will not only help a species that was once almost extinct but also provide other benefits in serving as a buffer to the Louisiana mainland.  
In Alabama, we worked with the State, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Conservation Fund to protect pristine scenic property adjacent to Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Within the refuge, we rehabilitated an aging trail that is located along the flight path of a vast array of colorful migratory bird species. This enhanced amenity for birdwatchers is helping boost eco-tourism, an important component of the local economy. We have also completed other projects, including the construction of two dune walkovers at Fort Morgan by the Bureau of Land Management. These structures provide the public with access to the beach, while protecting the Alabama beach mouse’s habitat from foot traffic.  
In Florida, coastal recreational opportunities were significantly impacted following the spill. In response, we had two 150-passenger ferries built that are now sailing between the City of Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Gulf Islands National Seashore. This project is a “win-win” for the National Park Service and local governments, as both parties have sought the ferry service for decades but had lacked the necessary funding. 
These are more than 40 restoration projects the Department is implementing and represent our broad commitment to collaborative efforts to support conservation and recreation throughout the Gulf region. With 11 more years of funding yet to be received, there are many more opportunities for shared success. I can assure you that the Trump Administration is committed to ensuring the safe and responsible development of energy in the Gulf and furthering our work to restore and conserve critical habitats. 


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