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Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council convenes for first time

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The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council held its first public meeting in Mobile, Ala., in December to update residents on the progress of implementing a portion of the RESTORE Act. Southern Region Manager of Mitigation Programs Eric Held represented Ducks Unlimited at the meeting.

The RESTORE Act, which Congress passed in June 2012, dedicates 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill back to the Gulf Coast for restoration. Those fines, expected to reach billions of dollars, will help stabilize and revive troubled ecosystems along the Gulf Coast.

The council was created by the RESTORE Act to develop a long-term ecosystem restoration plan for the region. This plan is expected to reverse coastal land loss, create new marshland and rebuild fisheries and marine environments throughout the Gulf Coast region. The council will fund the comprehensive plan with 30 percent of the money dedicated to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund established by the RESTORE Act. The basis of the restoration plan has already been developed by a similar group of federal and state partners known as the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. The task force produced a restoration strategy document in December 2011, which identified four key directives for restoring the Gulf Coast: habitat restoration, water quality improvement, marine resources protection and community resiliency enhancement. DU submitted comments on that plan.

Of particular importance to waterfowl in the comprehensive plan will be incorporating the task force’s strategy recommendation to stabilize and reverse land loss along Louisiana’s coast through the use of sediment diversions. Sediment diversions are recommended as a key Mississippi River Delta restoration tool in both the task force strategy and Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan.

The restoration council plan should be released soon, and subsequent listening sessions in January and February in each Gulf state will allow for further public input. Ducks Unlimited will monitor this situation and comment accordingly with regard to wetlands and waterfowl conservation. The comprehensive plan must be finished by June 2013. 

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