Gulf Restoration Draft Plan is Missing a Lot of Detail

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council released on Thursday a draft initial comprehensive plan for spending Clean Water Act fines on projects that will restore Gulf’s ecosystem and economy. The draft plan, required by the RESTORE Act, is open for public comment through June. This much anticipated plan landed like a thud, though, because in its 20 pages, there is really not much there.The draft plan failed to include a priority list or spending allocation plan and the Council lists excuses like, the “uncertainty related to the overall amount and availability of funds deposited” in the RESTORE Act trust fund, the failure of the U.S. Treasury to issue procedures for spending trust fund money, and the council’s intent to request public input on the plan. So what we got is a broad vision for restoring the Gulf with some goals for spending the money: restore and conserve habitat, restore water quality, replenish and protect living coastal and marine resources, enhance community resilience, and restore and revitalize the Gulf economy.We are pleased the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council has expressed a commitment to addressing important goals and accomplishing critical objectives which will ultimately create a healthier Gulf and benefit our coast and our communities. Specifically, the Council has made a commitment to:” Full compliance with environmental laws for all projects and programs;” Decisions based on science and adaptive management of the plans and projects;” A regional, ecosystem-based, landscape-scale restoration approach;” Evaluation and measuring outcomes;” Using an integrated and coordinated approach;” Community resilience strategies including non-structural storm protection and climate change adaptation;” Council-selected Restoration Component dedicated solely to ecosystem restoration; and” Establishing an independent citizen’s advisory committeeWe anticipate the need to closely watch State Expenditure plans as we are already seeing some troubling signs of where they want to spend their restoration dollars, for example, in Alabama where they are moving to spend environmental restoration funds to build a hotel and conference center in Gulf State Park.The council will hold public engagement sessions in each of the five Gulf states in June. The exact locations still to be determined:” June 3, Pensacola, Fla.” June 5, Spanish Fort, Ala.” June 10, Galveston, Texas” June 11, Biloxi, Miss.” June 12, Belle Chasse” June 17, St. Petersburg, Fla.The public can submit comments about the Draft Initial Comprehensive Plan until June 24th. Click here.To download the Draft Initial Comprehensive Plan, click here Michelle Erenberg is the coordinator of Gulf Future, a coalition of conservation and community groups working together to recover from the BP oil disaster.