Beyond the $$$: Restoration Implementation in the Gulf of Mexico

What will happen once we FINALLY start seeing funding for ecosystem restoration in the Gulf region? Since the oil disaster began, the environmental community has been rightfully focused on funding to address oil impacts as well as broader ecosystem restoration. And we’ve spent time and brainpower thinking about what types of projects will best address the challenges we face on the Gulf Coast.Now that it’s looking like the RESTORE Act will make it through Congress (fingers crossed), and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment is progressing, we have the opportunity to take a step back and think about the big picture of Gulf restoration, and how we can work together as a community to achieve our vision for a healthy and vibrant Gulf and coastal communities into the future.This week Ocean Conservancy held a webinar and an in-person workshop to start the conversation about some of the big picture items that will help ensure that what we are doing today will get us to where we want the Gulf to be in 10 or 20 or 50 years. Without guideposts and blueprint for success we run the risk of losing this unprecedented opportunity to address both oil impacts and long term degradation in the Gulf.As a jumping off point, Ocean Conservancy relied on the expertise of folks who have “been there, done that” with the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Based on their experience planning for long-term restoration, these experts and other stakeholders identified the following principles that can help guide the region to a successful restoration outcome.The guiding principles are:” Sound Management” Stable and Coordinated Funding” Prudent Project Selection” Stewardship” A Sentinel System for the FutureThere is much to consider, but, taken together, these guiding principles will help ensure that management of restoration dollars is coordinated and predictable, that management of both funding and projects is efficient, transparent and accountable to the public, that the projects chosen address the entire ecosystem including marine and coastal environments and coastal communities, and that we have a monitoring system that will identify and address lingering impacts from the oil disaster as well as take the pulse of the Gulf to track ecosystem health.It’s a lot to chew on, but I’m interested in what you think –how should we be thinking about the big picture of restoration beyond funding and beyond single projects? Email me your thoughts and ideas at and we will include it in the ongoing conversation.Bethany Kraft is Deputy Director of the Gulf Restoration Program at the Ocean Conservancy

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