RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act Passes

Following manual cleanup at Fourchon Beach, booms made out of pom-poms were set to protect the sandy beaches. Plastic pom-poms were effective and low-cost tools that attracted and held oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Credit: NOAA.

 

Groups such as the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Audubon Society (along with many other conservation and sportsmen’s organizations), applauded the Senate for passing the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act (S. 1400) as an amendment to the Senate transportation bill.

Introduced by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), RESTORE represents extraordinary bipartisan consensus among lawmakers in the Gulf of Mexico region and beyond and is a crucial measure that ensures that 80 percent of the funds from the Clean Water Act and other penalties assessed in the wake of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill are used to pay for economic and environmental restoration projects in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Due to Senator Nelson’s leadership, of particular importance to the sportfishing industry, is funding provided in RESTORE to establish a research, science and technology program aimed at improving Gulf fisheries management and monitoring.

This amendment also includes a major, much needed increase in funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund provides money to federal, state and local governments for the acquisition of land and water to benefit conservation and recreation. The provision would double current funding levels for the fund to $700 million for each of the next two years and reauthorize it until 2022, for a total of $1.4 billion.

Taken together, if the transportation bill with the RESTORE amendment attached should win final passage, these two doses of conservation funding would represent, by some estimates, the largest boost in conservation funding in American history.

“The entire sportfishing community thanks Senators Landrieu, Nelson and Shelby not just for taking a huge step forward to help ensure the long-term health of the Gulf Coast ecosystem and coastal economies, but also for infusing significant, and essential, conservation dollars into the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. “Sportsmen and women, and the businesses they support, rely on clean water to ensure an enjoyable and productive day on the water. Consequently, anglers have consistently advocated for the conservation of our nation’s waters and wetlands. America’s 60 million anglers should celebrate this truly historic vote.”

Robertson also recognized the efforts of Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) for his leadership in ensuring that not only the Gulf, but the entire country benefits from RESTORE and the funds now available for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Saltwater recreational fishing contributes more than $8 billion in economic output in the Gulf Coast region annually and supports approximately 82,000 jobs. The Gulf of Mexico is one of the most popular areas for recreational fishing in the United States with 3.6 million saltwater anglers spending more than 42.5 million days on the water each year. Beyond recreational fishing, the Gulf is a strong engine of commerce. It produces roughly 40 percent of all the seafood in the lower 48 states. The region is home to 10 of the nation’s 15 largest ports, while over 25 percent of the nation’s waterborne exports pass through Louisiana ports alone.

According to the Audubon Society, the Act would:

- Specifically direct 80 percent of Clean Water Act civil penalties resulting from the oil spill to restoration of the Gulf Coast environment and local economies. This could mean as much as $10-20 billion.

- Distribute resources fairly and equitably to the affected Gulf Coast states, allowing them to launch immediate recovery efforts.

- Ensure that the funds are spent responsibly and for their intended purposes.

- Establish the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council which will develop and fund a comprehensive plan for the ecological recovery and resiliency of the Gulf Coast.

- Provide $1.4 billion over the next two years for the Land and Water Conservation Fund for buying precious lands across America.

The Senate is scheduled to take up the Transportation Bill with the RESTORE Act amendment on Tuesday, March 13.