RESTORE Council Updates Comprehensive Plan

Image Courtesy of Environmental Law InstituteIt’s been five months since the $20 billionsettlementwith BP was finalized, settingforththe timeline anddollar amounts thatwill make its way downtothe Gulf Coast.Within that $20 billion, approximately$5.3 billionwent towards the funding of theRESTORE Act,which has been tasked withimplementingrestorationprojects andprogramsacross the Gulf.The RESTORE Council, afederal-state bodytaskedwith governing twosignificantportion’sof theRESTORE Act dollars,recently releasedtheir updateto its 2013Initial Comprehensive Plan,informingthe public, and federal,state and localbodieshowthe Council portion of RESTORE dollarswill bespent. The updated planencourages innovationand long-termstrategies to restore coastal communitiesand the environment we all depend on, as well as enhances its commitment to public participation and transparency.Highlights from the Updated Comprehensive Plan include:Supporting and enhancing collaboration and consistency among all restoration funding (e.g. RESTORE, NRDA, & NFWF);Committing to community engagement and workshops to further develop and coordination restoration efforts across the Gulf Coast;Outlining an annual3-year strategy for futureFunded Priority Project Lists; and,Encouraging science-based reviews of all project proposals, as well as improved project submission guidelines.While we’re encouraged by the Council’s commitmentto foster better partnerships between all stakeholders (such as the public, non-profits, &intergovernmental) -particularly through facilitating diverse public participation processes -it is equally important that each of the Gulf State-members within the Councilformally commit to the same level of participation and facilitation in their own communities. Without the involvement and leadership by state decision-makers – particularly the Council-member designees – and their federal counterparts, a comprehensive restoration vision cannot be truly achieved.This update to the Comprehensive Plan represents a significant stride for Gulf restoration – both in its planning and implementation.A key component of this updated plan is the Council’s emphasis oncoordination and consistency throughout all relevant restoration programs. As projects across funding streams can and should compliment one another, convening and facilitating collaboration between RESTORE, Natural Resource Damage Trustees, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and other relevant state and federal agencies will greatly benefit the overall success of each restoration program -encouraging large-scale project development and implementation. This level of coordination is vital to the success of comprehensive, gulf-wide restoration.Through the endof the month of September, the Council will be hostingmeetingsacross the Gulf Coast toreceive public commentson the draft Comprehensive Plan Update. The meeting schedule is as follows:12 September – Panama City, FLGulf Coast State CollegeLanguage and Literature Building, Room 385230 West US Hwy 98Panama City, FL 32401Click here for FL Meeting Summary19 September – New OrleansUniversity of New OrleansHomer L. Hitt Alumni Center2000 Lakeshore DriveNew Orleans, LA 7014820 September – Spanish Fort, AL5 Rivers Delta Resource Center30945 Five Rivers BoulevardSpanish Fort, AL 3652722 September – Long Beach, MSOpen House: 5 PM; Meeting: 6 PMUniversity of Southern Mississippi Gulf CoastFleming Education Center Auditorium730 East Beach BoulevardLong Beach, MS 3956029 September – Galveston, TXOpen House: 5 PM; Meeting: 6 PMSea Scout Base7509 BroadwayGalveston, TX 77554In addition to the in-person meetings in each state, the Council is hosting a webinar version of the public meeting – which will present the same information and provide opportunity to submit comments during the webinar.4 October – Webinar2 PM CSTRegister to attend the webinar hereIf you’re interested in providing comments outside of the public meetings, you can submit your comments in the following ways:Online hereMail to: Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council Attn: Draft Comprehensive Plan Update Comments Hale Boggs Federal Building 500 Poydras Street Suite 1117 New Orleans, LA 70130Email: frcomments@restorecouncil.govTo read the draft Comprehensive Plan Update – both in English and Vietnamese -visit the RESTORE Council’s website for more information. And if you’re interested in seeing summaries from each of the state public meetings, the Council will be posting updates throughout the comment period here.For more information, tune into theinformational webinar hosted by Environmental Law Institute, Ocean Conservancy and Gulf Restoration Network on 21 September at 12:00 PM CST.Jordan Macha is the Gulf Policy Analyst for the Gulf Restoration Network.

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