Charting Restoration: Five Years after Deepwater Horizon

Gulf Restoration Is Off to a Good Start

That is a core message of the just released Charting Restoration report led by The Nature Conservancy. This report analyzes existing strategic restoration plans from multiple federal, state and local agencies, nonprofit organizations, and coalitions to identify and map restoration priorities across the Gulf. The report then compares the findings to the BP-related money that has been distributed to date.

“We wanted to create a tool that would help to answer the question of whether Gulf restoration is on track. In the five years since the Deepwater Horizon spill, state and federal agencies, as well as nonprofits and coalitions, have worked hard to identify restoration priorities”, said Dr. Christine Shepard, Lead Scientist for The Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico Program. “Understanding these existing needs and priorities is crucial to guiding the Gulf restoration process.”

The report identifies more than 1200 priority needs along the Gulf Coast. There is a lot of overlap between agencies, nonprofits, and coalitions in terms of which areas are priorities for restoration. For example, oyster restoration in Pensacola Bay is a common priority, as is water quality improvements in Coastal Texas.

The report also identifies the 116 projects that have been funded through the Gulf restoration process so far and compares them to the identified priorities.

One of the main findings of the report is that the majority of funding to date has gone towards restoring the environment, which shows a solid alignment with the identified priorities. The report also shows that clean water, community resilience and healthy marine plants and animals are top priorities across the Gulf yet a limited number of projects have been funded with a primary focus on these issues.

Does This Mean We’re on Track for Restoration

Yes, Gulf restoration is off to a good start. The governments and foundations are generally funding the priorities that have been identified through the various plans that have been created with science and community participation. The Nature Conservancy hopes that this trend continues moving forward. Where there are differences between planned and funded priorities, it is our belief that these are likely attributable to the legal requirements of the early funding sources.

This is just the first run for this tool and Conservancy staff plan to update the report as more funding decisions are made. The Nature Conservancy is offering the report to all the decision-making bodies for Gulf restoration to help them evaluate funding decisions and prospective funding decisions as the process of Gulf restoration continues.