Secretary Jewell Announces Tribal Youth Conservation Corps Projects to Aid in Ecosystem, Economic Recovery on Gulf Coast

Five Gulf Coast tribes receive $500,000 to create tribal youth conservation corps teams focused on restoring health, resilience of Gulf Coast Tribal Nations 

Last edited 09/29/2021

Date: June 21, 2016
Contact: Jessica Kershaw,

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today traveled to the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana to announce the first suite of projects to move forward using funding from the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, established in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy to manage part of the ecosystem restoration responsibilities that resulted from the massive oil spill. The first set of projects will focus on coastal tribal community restoration priorities and will provide employment opportunities for young people across five Gulf Coast tribal nations, including the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama.

As a result of the civil settlement announced in 2013 with Transocean Deepwater, $8 million was set aside for the creation of  conservation corps to assist in clean up and recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast. Of that funding, an initial $500,000 has been set aside for five Gulf Coast tribes.

Today, Secretary Jewell announced that the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana will receive $100,000 of that funding over the next two years to employ a tribal youth conservation corps focused on coastal cleanup, restoration and community construction projects. Specifically, the Chitimacha youth corps will focus on cleaning up the bayou-side of their reservation along Bayou Teche. The Bayou Teche, which has been designated a national historic waterway, is part of the Teche watershed that connects to the Gulf and needs to be restored to full health.

“I am very pleased to announce that important restoration dollars in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will first go to tribal communities along the Gulf Coast,” said Secretary Jewell. “These projects are about investing in the next generation of tribal leaders who will ensure that not just the Gulf Coast, but tribal homelands around the coast are preserved for generations to come. Providing job training skills can enhance these young people’s ability to engage in the long-term Gulf restoration effort to help families, bolster local economies, and lead to a more resilient coast.”

With the $100,000 in funding, the Chitimacha Tribe is also able to double the size of their summer employment program, and expand work opportunities from four to now six weeks. This unique program at the Chitimacha Tribe is part of a larger effort to create a Gulf Coast Conservation Corps designed to provide job skills, training and education of more than 150 tribal youth in the region.

“We are thrilled that the Tribal Youth Conservation Corps is the first program from the RESTORE Council’s Initial Funded Priorities List to begin actively restoring the Gulf,” said Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council Justin Ehrenwerth. “With our initial suite of ecosystem restoration projects, the Council wants to establish a foundation that we can build upon as additional funds from BP become available.  This is a meaningful first step in our restoration journey—training Tribal youth to improve the Gulf ecosystem while deepening their appreciation for environmental and cultural issues.”

“The Chitimacha Tribe is proud to be the recipient of funding from the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund and proud to host Secretary Jewell.  Although we have had a Summer Youth Program since 1998, it did not have a conservation focus. In light of environmental events and efforts to preserve our culture, with this funding we were able to add projects to the program to make it more meaningful, to again connect our youth with the land and to help them realize that even small efforts do make a difference,” said Vice-Chairman of the Chitimacha Tribe April Wyatt.

“During the Deepwater Horizon incident, especially while the oil was spewing, we felt helpless and we worried about the impacts not only to the water and other natural resources, but to our cultural resources, including burial sites. While this does not fix those issues, it does show that the U.S. Department of the Interior and the RESTORE Council care about Tribes and support their efforts to continue to be good stewards of the lands we currently hold while helping to improve the larger Gulf environment that the Chitimacha people have called home for thousands of years,” Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Kimberly Walden said.

On April 10, 2010, the Macondo well blowout led to the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill and fire that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killing 11 men aboard and sending more than 3 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a period of nearly three months. Oil was deposited onto at least 400 square miles of the sea floor and washed up onto more than 1,300 miles of shoreline from Texas to Florida. The spill damaged and temporarily closed fisheries vital to the Gulf economy, oiled hundreds of miles of beaches, coastal wetlands and marshes and killed tens of thousands of birds and other marine wildlife, among other economic and natural resource injuries.

Last fall, a settlement was announced worth $20.8 billion, the largest settlement with a single entity in the United States’s history. Earlier settlements included:

  • On Feb. 17, 2012, MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC, which had a 10 percent stake in the well, agreed to settle its liability for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in a settlement with the United States valued at $90 million. Approximately $45 million of the $90 million settlement was dedicated to directly benefit the Gulf in the form of penalties, as well as coastal and habitat protection projects.
  • On Jan. 29, 2013, BP Exploration and Production Inc. pleaded guilty to illegal conduct leading up to and after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and was ordered to pay $4 billion in criminal fines, penalties and restitution, including $2.4 billion for natural resource restoration.
  • On Feb. 14, 2013, Transocean Deepwater Inc., the Deepwater Horizon’s owner and operator, pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act and was ordered to pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties, for its conduct in relation to the disaster. A separate civil settlement imposed a $1 billion Clean Water Act penalty on Transocean and required the company to take significant measures to improve its performance and prevent recurrence of this conduct. Through the RESTORE Act, 80 percent of this $1 billion was directed to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. It is this civil settlement that is the source of funds for the Gulf Coast Conservation Corps project.

In addition to the projects getting underway with the funding announced today, additional Gulf Coast restoration projects required under the settlement include: important restoration work to plug 11 abandoned oil and gas wells, backfill more than 16 miles of canals, establish minimum monitoring and data standards for restoration work and develop conservation planning tools to assist in the identification and evaluation of future land conservation proposals in the Gulf Coast region.

Earlier this year, the Department of the Interior also announced final well control regulations to reduce the risk of an offshore oil or gas blowout that could result in the loss of life, serious injuries or substantial harm to the environment. The regulations build upon findings and recommendations from several investigations and reports concerning the root causes of Deepwater Horizon and extensive consultation with industry groups, equipment manufacturers, federal agencies, academia and environmental organizations. The final rule is a comprehensive regulation addressing all dimensions of well control, including more stringent design requirements and operational procedures for critical well control equipment used in oil and gas operations on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.

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