The first offshore wind farm in the United States will begin construction (“steel in the water”) in late July 2015. The five turbine, 30-megawatt (MW) Deepwater Wind Block Island offshore wind project is a prime example of the great things that happen when we work together to plan for our ocean. Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski and commercial lobster fisherman Bill McElroy talk ocean planning and wind development in the video above.
Today we are celebrating the fifth anniversary of the National Ocean Policy (NOP), which aims to protect, maintain and restore ocean health while supporting sustainable uses in our oceans.
Healthy, productive oceans and coasts contribute significantly to our quality of life and to our economy. To maintain ecosystems that flourish, we are faced with complex challenges that the NOP is working to address. Across the nation, traditional industries, such as shipping, are expanding and new industries, such as offshore wind energy, are emerging where existing industries, like fishing, have been active for generations. In addition, stressors such as increased development along our coasts, ocean acidification, and sea level rise threaten ocean health.
Now that the fireworks have died down, we wanted to check back on the big announcement from BP earlier this month. BP, the Department of Justice and the five Gulf states announced they had reached a settlement for $18.7 billion to resolve outstanding fines and claims from the 2010 oil disaster. We’ve spent the week diving into the numbers and here’s a little more about what we know and what questions remain.
The agreement provides $8.1 billion for Natural Resource Damages, including $1 billion in Early Restoration previously committed by BP. Nearly 70 percent of the $1 billion for Early Restoration has already been spent, with another $134 million set to be spent this summer on 10 new projects. It is unclear at this point how the remaining $168 million Early Restoration funds will be allocated. However, in the coming months, we hope to see a draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan (DARP) from the Trustees that could lay the path forward for those remaining funds and the $7.1 billion in payments to be made over the next 15 years. This is an important fund for the Gulf’s fish and wildlife beyond the shore, as it includes $1.24 billion for “open ocean” projects, as well as $350 million for “regionwide” projects. While the exact definition of the terms “open ocean” and “regionwide” remain unclear, Ocean Conservancy is encouraged by this news, as we have long advocated for a comprehensive, regionwide approach to restoration, including the offshore environment.
Five years ago today, oil from the Deepwater Horizon rig was still gushing unabated into the Gulf of Mexico, impacting countless wildlife, oiling shorelines and devastating coastal communities from Texas to Florida. Shortly after the disaster occurred, both President Obama and BP promised to restore the Gulf of Mexico, and today marks the single biggest step forward in restoring the Gulf.
Today BP and the five Gulf states have agreed to an unprecedented $18.7 billion settlement to resolve the outstanding fines that BP still owes for damaging the Gulf. While details are still emerging, here are some of the highlights:
$5.5 billion to resolve Clean Water Act civil penalties, with some portion of that money being directed to each of the five Gulf states. This includes approximately $1.3 billion that will go to the RESTORE Council to implement comprehensive restoration from Texas to Florida, from the coast to the blue water. Read more about the RESTORE Act and restoration here.
$8.1 billion (including $1 billion down payment BP already provided for early restoration) to resolve natural resource damages that are directly related to the impacts of the oil disaster. We are particularly pleased to see that this allocation includes $1.24 billion for projects in the open ocean! This means that we will be able to restore impacts beyond the shore, where the disaster began and where we continue to learn about troubling impacts to fish, corals and dolphins.
$350 million to continue assessing the damage caused by the disaster.
Finally, $5 billion will go to the Gulf states to resolve economic claims.
Last month, federal lawmakers signaled their concern for healthy coastal communities when six House Republicans and Democrats introduced a bill directing the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to assess the vulnerabilities of these communities to ocean acidification. The bill, entitled the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2015 (H.R. 2553) takes an important step in helping these impacted individuals understand what acidification means for them specifically, and what can be done to protect themselves and their marine resources such as fisheries.
Although ocean acidification has generally been associated with oyster, mussel and clam die-offs, coral reefs are also threatened, and scientists are increasingly finding that important fisheries such as king and Dungeness crab, and summer flounder, won’t fare well in an increasingly acidic world. Given the millions of livelihoods at stake, we applaud Representatives Chellie Pingree (ME-1) and Vern Buchanan (FL-16) who introduced the bill along with their cosponsors for using foresight in trying to get ahead of this issue, and protect the jobs and way of life for thousands of individuals and families.
Ocean Conservancy engages with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to benefit and protect our ocean and its wildlife. Congressman Sam Farr, founder and chair of the House Oceans Caucus, has championed legislation to protect the ocean and fought against legislation threatening the ocean during his 23 years in Congress. Farr is California’s Central Coast longest serving member — a district that includes the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the majestic Big Sur coastline. So it isn’t surprising that Farr is known for his passion for the ocean. He uses his position as a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee to bolster the nation’s land and ocean resources. We spoke with Farr recently about ocean issues in Washington.
1. You’ve always been a champion of the ocean in Congress, where does your passion come from?
After school when I was a young kid, I spent my evenings exploring the tidal pools along the shores of the Monterey Bay. I was fascinated by all the different species that would be in those pools and wanted to learn everything I could about them. What started as childhood curiosity eventually turned into a lifelong passion. In high school, I had a biology teacher that inspired me and so upon graduating, I left for college planning on becoming a biology teacher. Life had a different plan. I joined the Peace Corps after hearing President Kennedy’s call to action and that was the beginning of my public service career. Serving in office at the local, state and now federal level, helped me gain a better understanding of how dependent we are on the ocean for our health and livelihood. When I came to Congress 23 years ago, I made it my mission to help raise awareness and be an advocate for our greatest natural resource.
Since 2007, the percentage of stocks that are facing overfishing, or that are already overfished, has decreased—even though fishing is increasing. This points to positive rebuilding progress for our nation’s fisheries. It is clear that sound science and managing the long term future of our fisheries is working for America’s fish stocks as well as for the country’s economy.