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Gulf restoration cash comes on stream

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Jeff Trandahl: First Gulf restoration payout signals ‘start of great things’.

More than US$100 million has been released in the first wave of funding for Gulf restoration projects following the infamous Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.

The payouts are part of the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, created in the settlement between the US Department of Justice and BP and Transocean to resolve criminal charges against both companies.

An additional US$627 million will support a further 44 restoration projects identified under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Process (NRDA).

The initial funding, allocated by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), has gone to 22 projects designed to remedy damage and reduce the risk of future harm to natural resources affected by the devastating spill.

The projects, in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, will repair damaged habitat, improve water quality, restore estuaries and develop data collection on fish stocks, along with a variety of other management and restoration measures.

Provisions within the plea agreements between the US Department of Justice and BP and Transocean direct a total of US$2.544 billion to the NFWF over a five-year period.

“This [first payout] is significant for many Gulf communities directly affected by the oil spill. It signals the start of great things to come for restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director and CEO of NFWF.

“The projects we have announced represent the first step in what will be a long partnership between the Gulf States, our federal agency partners and the NFWF. Working together, there is much we can accomplish to remedy harm resulting from the spill and to reduce the risk of future harm to the Gulf’s vital natural resources.”

Under the allocation formula and other provisions contained in the plea agreements, the Gulf Fund will receive a total of roughly US$1.2 billion for barrier island and river diversion projects in Louisiana, in addition to roughly US$356 million each for projects in the states of Alabama, Florida and Mississippi and US$203 million for projects in Texas.

“We applaud the NFWF’s leadership and commitment to quickly send resources where they are needed most,” US Fish and Wildlife Service Director, Dan Ashe, said. “The Gulf of Mexico is a national treasure, vital to our country’s natural and economic wellbeing. Restoring the Gulf and its watershed is a long-term challenge for our nation and requires a national solution.”

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