Today, the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees for the Deepwater Horizon disaster released a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement and officially released a third round of early restoration projects. Many of these projects, the majority of which were first announced in May, are worthy restoration projects to repair sea turtle and shorebird nesting habitat, oyster reefs, coastal marsh, and other important Gulf environments affected by BP’s crude oil. However, Alabama’s Gulf State Park Enhancement project, which includes a hotel and conference center, and three of Mississippi’s projects, including the Restoration Initiatives at the INFINITY Science Center, are inappropriate uses of these funds and not at all what the public considers restoration of the Gulf.
We have a historic opportunity to put the Gulf on a path towards sustainability and help make our communities and ecosystem far more resilient. Squandering these funds on environmentally destructive projects, like the Alabama beachfront hotel and conference center which threatens critical habitat for endangered species, is a betrayal of the public trust, and reinforces the public’s cynicism of how restoration funds will be used in the future. Both regionally and nationally, thousands of people have spoken out against this use of early restoration funds, yet the Trustees chose to ignore those voices. It calls into question whether the public will have meaningful input for future Gulf restoration decisions.
If these projects are allowed to move forward, Gulf Restoration Network is dedicated to investigating all possible options, including legal avenues for preventing this inappropriate use of NRDA funds. Our coastal communities depend on a clean and healthy Gulf, and these precious restoration dollars cannot be spent on short-sighted projects that will not revitalize our natural resources.
Any portion of this statement may be quoted with attribution to Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director, Gulf Restoration Network.
Gulf Restoration Network is a 19 year old non-profit dedicated to empowering people to protect and restore the health of the Gulf of Mexico.