Funding Priorities for Restoration Presents Great Opportunity for Gulf Coast Environment and Communities

By Oxfam

Oxfam America praised today's publication by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council of the set of projects and programs to be funded using a portion of the fines paid in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Created by the RESTORE Act in 2013, the Council administers a portion of the civil fines paid under the Clean Water Act from the disaster to “undertake projects and programs, using the best available science, that would restore and protect the natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, coastal wetlands, and economy of the Gulf Coast.”

“The Funded Priorities List (FPL) published today is a catalytic moment for the Gulf, setting a precedent for a decade of restoration to come, improving the health and resilience of our ecosystems, communities and working families," said Oxfam America's Senior Domestic Policy Advisor Jeffrey Buchanan. "By bringing together projects repairing critical habitat for our seafood industry and career training for our disadvantaged youth in coastal communities desperately in need of opportunity, the Council shows we can tackle our region’s most important needs, the environment and economic mobility, together."

The FPL includes an $8 million program, the Gulf of Mexico Habitat Restoration via Conservation Corps Partnership project, that aims to train 350 local disadvantaged youths, including working with tribal organizations, across Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas for careers in ecosystem restoration. In total, the Council’s draft FPL proposes $139.6 million in restoration activities that will now be reviewed by the public over a 45 day public comment period before being finalized by the Council.

"As we approach the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we must heed the lesson we have learned:  there is no real recovery or restoration if we don't help the most vulnerable and most impacted people lift themselves up," continued Buchanan.

Oxfam America is part of a collaboration of over seventy business, tribal, conservation, workforce, economic and community development organizations across the five Gulf states who have been working to encourage the Council to support workforce development opportunities within ecosystem restoration for workers from vulnerable communities along the coast. Oxfam encourages projects to connect local workers to training and contracting rules to give local workers and businesses a preference in contracting opportunities, as required by the RESTORE Act. The Council is currently developing a proposal for standard contract terms to give a local preference

"As we get closer to seeing the projects funded, it is also critically important that the Council take the opportunity to establish strong local preference rules to ensure that we can put local workers and businesses to work repairing our coastal habitat, to help spur the Gulf region's growing restoration economy, and to develop our local restoration workforce," said Buchanan. "Together, by investing in smart projects and implementing best practices giving local preferences in contracting, the Council has a chance to help Gulf Coast restoration to be a transformational opportunity for the region.”

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