Today the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council approved their updated comprehensive plan to restore the Gulf after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. The updated plan includes small yet very important changes that echo the comments from tens of thousands of people like you from across the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll recall back in October we asked you to let the Council know that stronger language was needed within the comprehensive plan to ensure restoration is coordinated, comprehensive and based in science. Specifically, we want the Council to improve its project submission process and look for more ways to incorporate the best available science into their plan. These updates would ensure the best possible outcome for the $1.6 billion in fines available to the Council to restore the Gulf.
I’m happy to report that the updated comprehensive plan addresses all of these concerns. We spoke, and the Council listened! Ocean Conservancy would like to say thank you for voicing your comments to the Council and for your continued engagement on Gulf restoration.
In addition to improving the proposal development and best available science sections, the Council also added clarifying language to the fifth goal in the plan, “Revitalize the Gulf Economy.” The Council points out that a strong economy is based on a healthy environment and that restoration projects and programs contribute to a healthy economy by not only creating jobs but by improving and maintaining a productive ecosystem. We couldn’t agree more. For those who live on the Gulf Coast, it’s clear that our economy and ecosystem are intrinsically linked, and, in order to have a stable economy, we must have a healthy, productive ecosystem.
As we close out 2016, we are encouraged by the progress made this year in the Gulf. Six years after the BP oil disaster began, the legal process finally came to an end with an unprecedented $20.8 billion global settlement with BP. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation continues to make the Gulf’s marine life a top priority, with $26 million in new projects to restore dolphins, sea turtles and fish. And now we can thank the Council for updating the comprehensive plan ahead of schedule and for the many improvements they’ve made. With the first payment from the BP settlement coming in April, we look forward to more exciting accomplishments for the Gulf in 2017.