In order to successfully restore the Gulf of Mexico from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Ocean Conservancy, as you may recall, has a tried-and-true Recipe for Restoration:
1 part science
1 part public engagement
1 part clear criteria for decision-making
We are so pleased today to see that the RESTORE Council is following our recipe for success. As the federal and state partnership charged with determining how billion of dollars in Clean Water Act fines will be spent, the RESTORE Council announced their plans today for receiving and evaluating proposals for Gulf restoration projects. This long-awaited announcement has been years in the making, and Ocean Conservancy has been one of the strongest supporters for a science-based platform for successful Gulf restoration. Thanks to the actions taken by the Council today, projects to restore the Gulf will be chosen based on merit, not on politics.
The Council lays out a five-step process for project selection. Projects and programs that meet these criteria will be included in a draft prioritized list, known as the Funded Priorities List. The Council’s process will accomplish the following:
1. Proposes focus areas of restoring habitat and water quality for projects and programs which will be included on the Funded Priorities List as the first addendum to the Initial Comprehensive Plan.
2. Encourages project submissions that emphasize the following:
- How a project is foundational in the sense that the project forms the initial core steps in addressing a significant ecosystem issue and that future projects can be tiered to substantially increase the benefits;
- How a project will be sustainable over time;
- Why a project is likely to succeed; and
- How a project benefits the human community where implementation occurs.
3. Provides for external independent scientific review of project proposals.
4. Ensures that all applicable environmental compliance requirements are addressed.
5. Ensures that projects meet both statutory requirements and commitments the Council made in the Comprehensive Plan.
Ocean Conservancy applauds the Council for seeking external scientific review of project proposals. This is so important to ensure that Gulf restoration projects are based on the best available science. We are also pleased to hear that they are committed to a transparent process, with projects coordinated across state lines. After all, fish don’t observe state lines underwater!
We commend the Council for their dedication and perseverance to accomplish the enormous task of restoring the Gulf, not just from the BP oil disaster, but also from decades of environmental disasters. The process outlined by the Council may not be perfect, but it will help guide restoration toward a comprehensive, ecosystem-wide approach to Gulf restoration. There is still much work to do and many more hurdles to jump, but today was certainly a victory. Let’s take time to celebrate this win. High five!