RESTORE Council Draft Initial Funded Priorities List
Charting a Course for Gulf Restoration Activities
ELI Gulf Team, August 18, 2015
On August 13, 2015, another important milestone in Gulf restoration was reached: the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council released its draft Initial Funded Priorities List (“Draft FPL”). The Draft FPL proposes approximately $139.6 million worth of projects and programs, which will be funded with monies from the Transocean settlement, about $240 million of which were allocated to the Council (note that the much larger settlement with BP is not yet final, so the Council has yet to receive any of that funding).
In considering this milestone, we focus on a few key questions:
1. What is the FPL?
2. What is in the Draft FPL?
3. How is the rest of the Council money being spent?
4. How can the public participate?
Note that the Draft FPL is not yet final: it is open for public comment until September 28, 2015. The Council anticipates that it will finalize the FPL by the end of the year.
What is the FPL?
As a refresher, the RESTORE Act diverts 80% of Clean Water Act civil and administrative penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the Gulf. This money is split among five different buckets. One of these buckets is the region-wide Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, a federal entity composed of federal agency officials and the governors of the five Gulf states. The Council will receive 30% of RESTORE Act funds (plus 50% of the interest).
One of the Council’s main responsibilities is to carry out a comprehensive plan to restore and protect the Gulf’s natural resources. As part of that responsibility, the Council is required to develop “a prioritized list of specific projects and programs to be funded.” This is called the Funded Priorities List (or FPL). The FPL must be updated every year. The Draft FPL is the first FPL to be proposed.
What is in the Draft FPL?
Let’s start with some overarching points:
The Draft FPL proposes approximately $139.6 million worth of projects and programs.
The focus of the Draft FPL is on habitat and water quality.
The proposed activities are in 10 watersheds. A number of Gulf-wide initiatives are also proposed.
The Draft FPL includes two different categories of activities: Category 1 activities are those that are now being proposed for approval and funding (~$139.6 million worth of activities). Category 2 activities are those that are prioritized for further review and possible funding (they total about $43.6 million). The Council has made no commitment to fund the Category 2 activities, and they would be subject to further review (including public review) before being funded.
What do the Category 1 projects and programs look like? Here is a breakdown by state and watershed:
Under the Draft FPL, Louisiana will receive the most funding (37.4%), followed by Mississippi (17%), Florida (11.7%), Texas (9.6%), and Alabama (9.1%). Gulf-wide initiatives will receive about 15.2% of the funds. Also important to note is that, in some states (AL, LA, and MS), the focus is on one watershed, while in others (FL and TX) the focus is on multiple watersheds.
Another way to consider the proposed activities is by activity type: the Draft FPL divides activities into “Planning” and “Implementation” activities, with some activities categorized as both. As noted in the Draft FPL, the planning activities are intended to “ensure that good projects are ready to go when additional funding becomes available.” Here is the breakdown of Category 1 activities by activity type:
Notably, over 50% of funding is proposed to go to planning activities.
How is the rest of the Council money being spent?
As noted above, the Draft FPL proposes to spend around $139.6 million on projects and programs, which will be funded with monies from the Transocean settlement. But the Council was allocated a total of approximately $240 million from that settlement. Where does the rest of the money go? Here is the breakdown:
How can the public participate?
It is important to remember that the projects and programs in the Draft FPL are not yet final. Public comments are being accepted until September 28, 2015. Click here for ways you can submit your comments.
In addition, the Council will be hosting a number of public meetings across the Gulf where people can comment on the Draft FPL. Click here for the schedule of meetings.
For this Draft FPL and other milestones to come, continued public engagement will be key to ensuring that Gulf restoration and recovery proceeds in a way that meets the needs and priorities of Gulf communities. Consistent and persistent public engagement will shape Gulf recovery for the better.