Nature Conservancy Submits Comments to RESTORE Council
Comments of the Gulf of Mexico Program of The Nature Conservancy on the proposed Funded Priority List 3b for the allocation of RESTORE Act Council Designated Funds.
Dear Members of the RESTORE Council:
These are the comments of the Gulf of Mexico Program of The Nature Conservancy on the proposed Funded Priority List 3b for the allocation of RESTORE Act Council Designated Funds. Our comments also represent the views of the five Gulf state Nature Conservancy Chapters.
Overall, The Nature Conservancy supports funding of the slate of projects proposed by the RESTORE Council in FPL 3b. The Council members have done an excellent job both at improving the project selection process for Council Designated Funds and in proposing and choosing projects that together will improve the health of the Gulf of Mexico and enhance the benefits the Gulf provides to the people who live along its shores. We have three categories of comments:
First, we appreciate and support the changes in process in arriving at the proposed FPL 3b list including:
- Timely posting of the full detailed proposals and the science comments on those proposals
- Clear coordination among the eligible applicants that has resulted in far less duplication of proposed activities than in FPL 1
- Identification of environmental stressors that the proposals are intended to address and metrics that reflect progress in alleviating those stressors
- Documentation of public input to the project development process in several of the proposals
Second, with respect to the balance of project planning and project implementation and the use of programmatic projects:
- State agencies have accomplished a substantial amount of sound restoration planning already using various sources of Deepwater Horizon Settlement funding. This has helped to create a firm long-term foundation for Gulf restoration.
- The additional planning proposed for most of the FPL 3b projects can build on the planning already accomplished and is necessary to create the programmatic framework for selection of the best on-the-ground projects for implementation funding.
- State agencies have generally proposed appropriate criteria for the selection of projects to accomplish the programmatic objectives outlined in their project descriptions.
- Planning seems appropriately designed to ensure selection of sound projects and to complete the necessary environmental review of those projects.
Third, we have comments about the substance of several of the proposed projects:
- We endorse the recognition by state and federal agencies of the importance of watersheds to Gulf restoration and the need to maintain or restore water quality and natural freshwater flows to sustain the health of estuaries and the Gulf as a whole. We support looking and working upstream in such projects as the USDA/Florida/Alabama/Mississippi project to enhance the management of forest lands in important Gulf watersheds and the water quality projects proposed by all of the states.
- We support the inclusion of coastal resilience projects needed to address sea level rise and more frequent and intense coastal storms. Texas and Mississippi make specific reference to the beneficial use of dredged materials. In this era of rising sea levels, it only makes sense to use all of the dredged materials possible to reinforce shorelines with natural infrastructure. In the case of the Florida Gulf Coast Resiliency Project, we suggest increasing the proportion of dollars allocated to implementation projects.
- We are pleased to see land acquisition programs in Florida and Texas. These and other states have already had success in acquiring large tracts critical to maintaining coastal habitat and buffering communities from the impacts of tropical storms. There are more opportunities for conservation land acquisition near the coast and along tributary rivers. In Florida we hope that project selection will focus on lands that are on the Florida Forever Priority list in the Critical Natural Lands and Climate Change category. In both land acquisition and coastal resilience, there is a need to define and manage for the new coastline in low-lying areas that will result from sea level rise.
- As you know, The Nature Conservancy has operated GulfCorps over the last four years with funds provided to NOAA in FPL 1. We are extremely grateful to state and federal agencies that funding is included in FPL 3b for the renewal of GulfCorps for four more years. We also support the Tribal Youth Corps project. We believe that GulfCorps has demonstrated that disadvantaged and minority young adults can make meaningful contributions to Gulf restoration near the communities where they live while learning skills that prepare them for long term employment in conservation and related fields.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on FPL 3b and thanks to the RESTORE staff and the staffs of state and federal agencies for proposing a slate of projects that is science-based, practical and very likely to have a positive impact on improving the health of the Gulf and making it more resilient to change.
Bob Bendick, Director, TNC Gulf of Mexico Program
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.