Participating in Gulf Restoration
November 29, 2017
November has been a busy month for Gulf restoration.
A couple of weeks back, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) held its second annual Restoration Summit. The Summit was billed as “an opportunity for any member of the public to learn about current restoration projects in Mississippi and the announcement of new projects for 2017.” (It also served as the annual public meeting for the Mississippi Trustee Implementation Group (TIG), a group of federal and state agency representatives overseeing the natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) process in Mississippi.)
The Summit included an open house, where attendees could stop by different tables to chat with organizations involved in the restoration (for example, federal agencies, universities, city government, non-profit organizations) “to learn about current and planned restoration activities.” The open house was followed by formal presentations, where the MDEQ highlighted current Mississippi projects and announced new ones.
At the end of the evening, the public was encouraged to stay for “Stakeholder Conversations” – small-group discussions among community members, facilitated by MDEQ staff, “to inform future project planning.” We participated in a conversation that included a representative from a local environmental organization (and longtime Biloxi resident), a fifth-generation oysterman, and a community leader from a faith-based organization in Biloxi. They each provided valuable insights into the community’s knowledge and needs. If you didn’t have a chance to attend this session, MDEQ is still accepting comments about Mississippi restoration efforts, as well as feedback on the Summit itself, through its website.
To get folks ready to engage in the Summit, ELI partnered with Steps Coalition and Audubon Mississippi to host a “Restoration Refresher” in Biloxi the day before. Representatives from a variety of organizations, from local watershed and community groups to city government to federal agency staff, attended the event. In all, nearly 30 folks joined us for lunch and a refresher on the various restoration processes, as well as tips for engaging in those processes.
There have also been other November opportunities – for example, the Florida TIG held a public meeting on its Draft Phase V.2 Restoration Plan and Supplemental Environmental Assessment (the deadline to submit comments is December 8). And there is still one more public meeting this month: the Deepwater Horizon NRDA Trustee Council and the Region-wide TIG will hold their annual meeting on November 30 in Mobile. At that meeting, representatives from the Council and the seven active TIGs plan to “give updates on their progress over the last year.” There will be presentations and an opportunity for the public to provide comments. If you are in the area and able to attend, we hope to see you there!