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Next Steps in Gulf Recovery: Restoring Region’s Health and Livelihoods

Posted On July 26, 2013 by

shrimp boat

Credit: Bethany Kraft / Ocean Conservancy

With yesterday’s news that Halliburton intentionally destroyed evidence related to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, we are seeing that the truth about that disaster is still coming out. The company’s callousness at least has one bright side—it will provide more resources to an important restoration organization. But this isn’t enough.

The people of the Gulf are still suffering from this tragedy.

Three years ago, I found myself at a late-night community meeting on the coast in Alabama to discuss the oil disaster. At that point, oil was still spewing uncontrolled from the wellhead and huge portions of the Gulf were closed to fishing—meaning that thousands of people were out of a job and countless more were unable to enjoy doing the things they’d always taken for granted, like fishing, boating and swimming in the Gulf.

About an hour in, a broad-shouldered, weathered man stood up to discuss what this disaster meant for him. He explained that he made his living as a fisherman and now couldn’t afford to feed his family. As he talked, his voice began to break, and he struggled to keep talking through the tears. It was then that I knew this disaster was deeper than the sheen on the water; it was in the hearts of each Gulf resident.

I think about him often. I think about how we all felt during that awful summer. I remember how unsure we were that life would ever be the same.

I know it’s easy to forget how fearful we were when the oil was gushing. But the truth is we were and still are feeling the impacts of that summer. Luckily, there is a process called the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). The purpose of the assessment is to compensate the people of the Gulf for the impacts to our natural resources and our lost use and enjoyment of those resources.

Funding to restore the Gulf of Mexico should fully compensate the public for their losses and include the marine environment where the spill happened in the first place. Unfortunately, the money available for this process could be used for projects that don’t help fix the damage done.

We need the NRDA Trustees to spend Gulf restoration funds on bringing back the health and livelihoods of the Gulf region.

NRDA funds are intended to support projects like:

  • Restoring fisheries
  • Restoring oyster reefs
  • Constructing living shorelines
  • Restoring dunes damaged in the BP response effort
  • Enhancing nesting areas for seabirds and turtles
  • Restoring sea grass beds

Right now, we have the opportunity to make sure the trustees listen to the people of the Gulf. They need to understand we won’t stand by and watch funding get misused on projects that don’t work to restore the natural resources we rely on every day.

Ocean Conservancy’s goal is to send 1,000 public comments from Gulf state residents to the trustees before the comment period ends on Aug. 2. If you live in the Gulf or know someone who does, please share this message and help ensure that funding to restore the Gulf is used for its intended purposes for years to come.