NEW ORLEANS, La., Dec. 16, 2016 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in his role as chair of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council), today announced the finalization of the Comprehensive Plan Update to guide over $3 billion in investments to enhance the resources and economies of the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The plan was unanimously adopted by the five Gulf States (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas), the Departments of Agriculture, the Army, Commerce, and Interior, the Coast Guard, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
"Today's announcement builds the foundation for State and Federal partners to fulfill their commitments to the 22 million Americans who live in Gulf coastal counties and parishes to revitalize their economies and the Gulf ecosystem they depend upon," Vilsack said. "The Comprehensive Plan Update reflects unprecedented collaboration between federal, state, tribal and local partners and creates the framework for ongoing coordination, engagement and transparency as we continue to invest in strategies to restore this vital region."
The updated comprehensive plan commits to working with the public to devote RESTORE funds to large scale ecosystem restoration, builds upon lessons learned from the Council's initial investments, establishes a 10-year funding strategy, and refines the Council's process for making decisions based on public engagement and the best available science. The Council will continue to support ecosystem restoration that can enhance local communities by giving people desirable places to live, work, and play, while creating opportunities for new and existing businesses of all sizes, especially those dependent on natural resources. In addition, the Council will support ecosystem restoration that builds local workforce capacity.
"The Council is pleased to present this Comprehensive Plan Update," said Justin R. Ehrenwerth, Executive Director of the Council. "We thank the public for comments provided on the draft update. The Council has incorporated modifications to the update based on public input. We look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders as we move forward with comprehensive restoration across the coast."
The Comprehensive Plan Update builds on progress the Council has made since establishment in July 2012, including prioritizing over $183 million in restoration investments announced in December 2015. With resolution of the civil claims from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Council was able to revise its Initial Comprehensive Plan to reflect lessons learned and the timing and amount of restoration funding. In the coming months and years, the Council will focus on collaboration—among its members and with other partners—to fully leverage available funds and further advance comprehensive Gulf restoration.
The Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act) established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) and the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund (Trust Fund), and dedicates 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the Trust Fund, for restoration projects in the Gulf Coast region. The Council is chaired by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and members include the Governors of the States of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, as well as the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, the Army and the Interior, and the Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Read more about the Comprehensive Plan, the RESTORE Act and the Council at www.RestoreTheGulf.gov.
Since 2009, the Obama administration has developed a long-term strategy and inclusive framework to address the coastal resilience needs of the Gulf Coast region; brought federal, state, and local government together to better align decision-making and resources; and secured unprecedented settlement to ensure the Gulf coast communities will have the resources needed to make significant progress toward restoring ecosystems, economies, and businesses in the region over the next 20 years.
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