Five years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster claimed 11 lives in the Gulf of Mexico, the government trustees charged with restoring the Gulf of Mexico announced 10 new projects, worth $134 million, including the first projects to address impacts in the deep-water environment, where the blowout occurred.
“Early restoration was intended to address the immediate impacts of the BP oil disaster, before the natural resource damage assessment is complete,” said Bethany Kraft, director of the Gulf Restoration Program at Ocean Conservancy. “Five years on, the emerging impacts beyond the shore of the Gulf are myriad and troubling, from dolphins dying at record numbers, corals covered in oil and millions of gallons of oil sitting on the seafloor. We have been waiting to see when the trustees would turn their attention to the deep water. This announcement is encouraging – It is past time to begin restoring our impacted deep-water resources and habitats. Only by addressing restoration in an integrated and comprehensive way – from the coast to the deep water, can our impacted habitats, wildlife and coastal communities fully recover.”
Three of the 10 projects directly address known impacts to deep-water resources. The $20 million proposed Pelagic Longline Bycatch Reduction Project will protect open-ocean fish that were affected by the disaster. Lab studies revealed that BP oil caused deformed or damaged hearts in bluefin and yellowfin tuna, Ocean Conservancy reported.
The seagrass recovery project in Florida will address degraded seagrass areas, which provide important habitat for wildlife, including commercially and recreationally important fisheries.
The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle project is a 10-year, $45 million endeavor to restore the endangered Kemp’s ridley turtle through a number of related projects, including increased observer coverage to monitor sea turtle bycatch, increased funding for the sea turtle stranding network and the addition of two nesting corrals at Padre Island, Ocean Conservancy added.
According to Kraft, “This fourth phase of early restoration includes a number of strong coastal and marine projects. We are particularly pleased to see projects that will protect fish and sea turtles. We know these wildlife were impacted by the BP oil disaster and the sooner we can address those impacts, the sooner these special areas and species can recover. The approach the trustees are taking with these two complementary projects is exactly what we’ve been hoping to see in the five years since the disaster began. If we want to restore the Gulf comprehensively, we must focus on both the coast and the deep water – our communities, culture and livelihoods depend on it.”
The proposed 10 projects and estimated costs are:
- Osprey Restoration in Coastal Alabama – Baldwin and Mobile Counties, Alabama ($45,000);
- Point aux Pins Living Shoreline – Mobile County, Alabama ($2,300,000);
- Shell Belt and Coden Belt Roads Living Shoreline – Mobile County, Alabama ($8,050,000);
- Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Trail Enhancement – Alabama ($545,110);
- Seagrass Recovery at Gulf Islands National Seashore – Florida District ($136,700);
- Bike and Pedestrian Use Enhancements at Davis Bayou, Gulf Islands National Seashore – Mississippi District ($6,967,000);
- Restoring Living Shorelines and Reefs in Mississippi Estuaries – coastal Mississippi ($30,000,000);
- Texas Bird Rookery Islands– Galveston Bay and East Matagorda Bay, Texas ($20,603,770);
- Sea Turtle Early Restoration – Gulf of Mexico ($45,000,000);
- Pelagic Longline Bycatch Reduction – Gulf of Mexico ($20,000,000).