Citizens unhappy with current restoration planJun 24th, 2013 | By Candace Griffin | Category: news
Three years ago, 210 million gallons of Louisiana sweet crude oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico near the Louisiana coast and officials are trying to find a way to repair the damage that has been done.
Over the next two years, $800 million will be deposited in the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund as a result of Clean Water Act civil penalties from the companies responsible for the spill.
Last week, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council held a public meeting to discuss their initial plans on how to spend that money.
Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council
The Restoration Council was entrusted with the task of developing a comprehensive plan to restore the ecosystem and the economy of the Gulf Coast region.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) penalizes anyone that violates its prohibition against discharges of oil into U.S. navigable waters. Typically, any penalty monies obtained from the responsible parties would go to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, for use in cleaning up future oil spills. The RESTORE Act sought to change that distribution, and instead direct 80 percent of all civil and administrative CWA penalty monies from Deepwater Horizon to a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund (RTF).
While citizens were grateful that the Restoration Council is trying to help the affected communities,there is no actual plan being put into action, just a set of broad goals:
• Restore & Conserve Habitat
• Restore Water Quality
• Replenish and Protect Living Coastal and Marine Resources
• Enhance Community Resilience
• Restore and Revitalize the Gulf Economy
No one at Wednesday’s meeting was against these goals, but they yearn to hear a more definite plan of action— what projects and programs will be undertaken in the near future, specifically, the two Bonnet Carr√© sized river diversions near the Plaquemines/St. Bernard parish line on the Eastbank and near Myrtle Grove on the Westbank.
These diversions are actually part of CPRA’s (Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority), 50-year, $50 billion Louisiana 2012 Coastal Master Plan.
These diversions would be opened at selective times of the year to optimize sediment deposits into the evaporating marshes.
This means that the parish will be cut in half. Property owners will either be bought out or their land will be commandeered.
There will also be major changes to the oyster industry’s landscape.
With the river flowing into the gulf at new sites, the oyster industry, which relies on brackish water, a mixture between fresh river water and salty gulf water, will see the end of many current bedding grounds.
That is in some ways the goal, CPRA officials have said. When land that had been lost is restored, it will take the place of the near land oyster leases. Oysters will still be viable, the leases will just be further out, like they were decades ago.
There is also concern about how to clean up the remaining oil and dispersants that are still lurking in the wa
Residents acknowledged that the plan to create a river diversion, while beneficial in the long run, will further damage the already crippled economy and fishing communities.
“If this diversion takes place, fishermen should be able to receive compensation for the loss of their businesses,” says concerned citizen, Elizabeth Cook.
Citizens were also concerned that the Gulf Coast Economic Restoration Council is not utilizing all resources available to them, particularly more scientific research on the toxic pollution caused by dispersants used after the Deepwater Horizon spill.
“The life and death of the coastal communities depends on actively pursuing different ways to restore our coast,” said Diane Huhn, from Bayou Grace Community Services.
Another hot button issue was the allocation of money. Citizens believe that funds should be spent on the areas of the coast that were affected the most. Even though Louisiana was the state hardest hit by the oil spill, the state is being forced to equally split 35 percent of the funds with Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
The public will be given until June 24 to weigh-in on the actions that the Restoration Council has taken so far, as well as add any suggestions they think would benefit the program.
To view or provide comments on the Plan and associated documents, please visit www.restorethegulf.gov.