AUSTIN – Five Texasbased projects totaling about $18 million have been proposed to begin to compensate Texas for lost human use of natural resources resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The three artificial reef and two state park projects are part of the latest round of early restoration led by state and federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees.
“These restoration dollars are good for our Gulf, good for Texas coastal communities, and good for jobs and the economy,” said Governor Rick Perry. “While the pace of early restoration has been slower than the trustees would prefer, these first Texas-based projects would move us closer to restoring the entire Gulf of Mexico.”
The five Texas projects are among a total of 28 restoration projects across the Gulf that BP has agreed to fund under a conditional agreement with the trustees. The trustees plan to present all the additional early restoration projects for public review and comment in coming months. If selected for inclusion in a final early restoration plan, the 28 projects collectively would represent close to $600 million. This latest round of proposed early restoration follows two previous phases totaling $71 million.
The five proposed Texas-based projects are listed below. All costs are approximate.
• Galveston Island State Park Beach Re-development (Galveston County). The project would construct multi-use campsites, tent campsites, an equestrian trail head, beach access via dune walk-over boardwalks and other recreational enhancements on the Gulf side of Galveston Island State Park. The purpose is to restore the loss of recreational opportunities by enhancing access to the Gulf. Estimated cost: $10.7 million.
• Sea Rim State Park Amenities (Jefferson County). The project would construct facilities to provide enhanced recreation within Sea Rim State Park, including a fish cleaning station, restroom facility, and two wildlife viewing blinds, in order to enhance fishing experiences, wildlife observation, and educational interpretive opportunities. Estimated cost: $210,000.
• Texas Artificial Reef off the Mid or Upper Coast (Jefferson or Nueces County). This project would place artificial reef structures offshore if the necessary large-scale materials are available. Or, it would enhance existing, permitted nearshore reef sites using constructed, stable and clean materials. Artificial reefs are used by fishermen and scuba divers as recreational areas because of the aquatic community that develops in reef habitat. Estimated cost: $1.8 million.
• Brazoria Near shore Artificial Reef Artificial Reef Enhancement (Brazoria County). This project would enhance a nearshore reef site off Freeport. Estimated cost: $2 million.
• Matagorda Nearshore Artificial Reef (Matagorda County). This project would include construction of a new near shore artificial reef off of Matagorda. Estimated cost: $3.5 million.
These latest proposals show trustee early restoration efforts continuing during the government legal case against BP, seeking penalties under the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act. The first phase of the trial ended in April, with the second phase to begin in September.
In 2011, after negotiations with the trustees, BP agreed to provide up to $1 billion to fund early restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico to begin addressing injuries to natural resources caused by the spill. The purpose is to speed the start of restoration before the injury assessment process is completed. The latest proposals would continue to tap the $1 billion agreement.
The trustees continue to actively seek public input on restoration project ideas through various means, including public meetings, electronic communication, and a public website managed by NOAA for all the trustees, which includes a database to share project information and receive public project submissions.
In addition to the latest restoration projects identified, the trustees are continuing to identify other early restoration projects to address natural resource damages resulting and will seek BP’s approval for funding them. Ultimately, all early restoration plans will be incorporated into a single, comprehensive Oil Pollution Act Restoration Plan/Environmental Impact Statement.
Texas trustees include Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the General Land Office and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Other trustees include federal agencies and state agencies from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.