NEW ORLEANS, LA ” Five years ago today, the BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana, claiming eleven lives and causing devastating harm to Gulf Coast communities and our ecosystem. Today, we remember those lives lost, and stand with Gulf Coast communities as we continue our push towards comprehensive ecosystem restoration and meaningful participation in the decision-making process.”Five years ago, the nation’s worst environmental disaster began to unfold, and the unlike the flow of oil, the extent of the damage continues to reveal itself. The ongoing, emerging science demonstrates that BP’s oil continues to have wide ranging impacts on the Gulf ecosystem,” notes Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director of the Gulf Restoration Network. “While decision-makers have made significant strides ” such as the passage of the RESTORE Act, as well as the implementation of many good, community-based ecological restoration projects ” meaningful citizen representation continues to be crucial in the decision-making process towards building a resilient and sustainable ecosystem and economy.”Today, Gulf Restoration Network ” supported by 41 regional and community-based organizations ” released the report Sunshine on the Gulf II: Transparency and Participation in the RESTORE Process. This report presents a framework for evaluating and selecting projects that addresses short and long-term ecological restoration needs through the lens of prioritizing the employment of local people to implement projects, strengthening opportunities for public engagement in a transparent process, and including monitoring, evaluation and accountability in project implementation.”As decision-makers look at the universe of proposals for restoration, it is important that their attention is focused on short and long-term solutions for restoring both coastal and marine environments, as well as creating resilience in coastal communities,” says Jordan Macha, Gulf Policy Analyst for the Gulf Restoration Network. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to comprehensively address the needs of the Gulf and we cannot get this wrong.”As restoration funding continues to be allocated and appropriated for projects, the Natural Resource Damage Trustees1 announced 10 new projects, totaling $134 million, to go towards the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Early Restoration spending. This is the first round of spending that has allocated funding for projects in the marine environment.”With record reports of dolphin deaths, low fish & shrimp counts, dying deep sea coral reefs, and other marine species under extreme stress, the announcement for dedicated spending in the marine environment is welcome and long overdue,” notes Macha. “Projects like the longline gear transition program not only helps protect and sustain critical open-ocean species, but also supports those who make a living in on the Gulf’s waters.”For the last three years, GRN has partnered with longline fishermen to advocate for a win-win solution to address the significant impacts to the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna population in the Gulf. The announcement of this project demonstrates the importance of conservationists and commercial fishermen working together to find better and more efficient solutions to unintended catch and diminished fishing.Additionally, the other nine projects address critical restoration needs in both the marine and coastal environment. “We are pleased that the Trustees have chosen to utilize the fourth phase of early restoration funds to address the ecological needs of the Gulf Coast,” says Sarthou. “To comprehensively restore the Gulf, we must focus on the Coast holistically, from our coast to the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This phase of NRDA Early Restoration is a significant step in that direction.”For a digital version of Sunshine on the Gulf II, go to: http://healthygulf.org/Sunshine21 The NRDA Trustees are made up of the five Gulf States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (Department of Commerce), US Fish and Wildlife (Department of Interior), Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Agriculture.###Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) is a 21-year-old non-profit dedicated to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the health of the Gulf of Mexico.