The Gulf region is vital to our nation and our economy, providing valuable natural resources, abundant seafood, extraordinary beaches, recreational activities and a rich cultural heritage. Its waters and coast are home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, including over 15,000 species of sea life. Over 22 million Americans live in Gulf coastal communities. Despite this richness, the region’s ecosystem has endured significant natural catastrophes over the past decade and other factors that have threatened the natural resources of the region. For example, the Gulf Coast region has experienced loss of critical wetland habitats, erosion of barrier islands and other coastal areas, imperiled fisheries, water quality degradation and significant coastal land loss due to natural forces, the alteration of hydrology and other human activities.
Against this backdrop, the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20, 2010, cost 11 men their lives and set into motion one of the largest environmental disasters in our nation’s history. For months, thousands of people worked to stop the flow of oil from the wellhead and protect our shorelines, wildlife and coastal communities. At the same time we also looked to the future, understanding that an event of this magnitude would take the collective thinking and cooperation of the entire region to ensure that the Gulf recovered not only from the effects of the spill, but from natural and other catastrophes that threaten the natural resources of the region as well as the people who rely on those resources for their food, fun and livelihoods.
In recognition of both the severity of the spill as well as the challenges facing the region, on June 15, 2010, President Obama issued a clarion call to the people of the Gulf and the rest of the nation to commit to recovery of the region not only from the spill, but to address broader ecosystem challenges brought on by storms, development pressures and other stressors. He called on Ray Mabus, then Secretary of the Navy, to develop a long-term restoration plan for the Gulf Coast, entitled: America’s Gulf Coast: A Long Term Recovery Plan after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The recommendations from that initial effort laid the groundwork for passing legislation to fund restoration efforts, as well as the development of strategies and plans to guide the region toward a comprehensive approach to restoration that takes into account the environmental, economic and cultural value of the Gulf Coast region.
Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
On October 5, 2010, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13554, which established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force “to coordinate intergovernmental responsibilities, planning, and exchange of information so as to better implement Gulf Coast ecosystem restoration and to facilitate appropriate accountability and support throughout the restoration process.”
The primary charge of the Task Force was to create a unified, strategic approach to restore the region’s ecosystem. In October 2011, Task Force members published a Gulf of Mexico Regional Ecosystem Restoration Strategy (and accompanying science document) that articulated an overarching vision for restoration. The Task Force developed the strategy with the input of local partners, scientists, tribes and the public.
The foundation of the strategy document is four ecosystem restoration goals to facilitate long-term restoration:
· Restore and Conserve Habitat
· Restore Water Quality
· Replenish and protect living marine and coastal resources
· Enhance community resilience
For more information about the Task Force, visit http://www.epa.gov/gulfcoasttaskforce/
Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council
In 2012, the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for recovery. In Executive Order 16326, President Obama dissolved the Task Force and charged the Council with incorporating the Task Force’s work into their continuing work to guide restoration efforts in the region.
In July 2012,the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council), which is comprised of governors from the five affected Gulf States, the Secretaries from the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Commerce, Agriculture, and Homeland Security as well as the Secretary of the Army and the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Gulf States recommended and President Obama appointed the Secretary of Commerce as the Council’s Chair.
The Council has responsibilities with respect to 60 percent of the funds made available from a Gulf Restoration Trust Fund, also established by the RESTORE Act. Thirty percent of the Trust Fund, plus interest, will be administered for ecosystem restoration and protection by the Council according to Section IV of this Plan (Council-Selected Restoration Component). The other 30 percent of the Trust Fund will be allocated to the Gulf Coast States under a formula described in the RESTORE Act and spent according to individual State Expenditure Plans (Spill Impact Component). The State Expenditure Plans must be consistent with the Goals and Objectives of this Plan and are subject to the Council’s approval. Remaining RESTORE Act funds not within the Council’s responsibilities are: the Direct Component (35 percent of the funds), available to the Gulf Coast States in equal shares; the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science Program (2.5 percent of the funds plus interest); and Centers of Excellence Research Grants Program (2.5 percent of the funds plus interest). For more information on the allocation of the Trust Fund, click here.
One of the Council's primary responsibilities is to develop a Comprehensive Plan to restore the ecosystem and the economy of the Gulf Coast region. The Council approved the Initial Comprehensive Plan in August, 2013.
Restorethegulf.gov details the Council’s mission and work in the Gulf region.