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BP’s Billion for Early Restoration Stirs Controversy Over Gulf Coast Priorities

By Rhonda Miller | Published 12 Jan 2012 11:58pm | comments
Public hearings on projects to restore the Gulf from damage from the BP oil spill will be held next week in Gautier, Gulfport and Bay Saint Louis.

BP is funding $1billion in early restoration projects in five states impacted by the oil spill. Two Mississippi projects have been tentatively chosen, but MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports there’s debate about whether they’re the best choices.

A coalition of groups reviewed about 150 proposed restoration projects.  Gulf Islands Conservancy President Terese Collins has concerns about a $2.6 million artificial reef.

"Millions of dollars have been spent to create artificial fishing reefs in Mississippi," said Collins. "So why are we using BP funds to restore the fishing reefs that we are told are restored?  If they are damaged by the BP oil spill and the dispersants, then perhaps we should see what that damage is and if they’re oiled, remove the product from the water instead of dumping more stuff on top of them."

BP ‘s Director of Natural Resource Damage Assessment, Robin Bullock, said in a telephone press conference Thursday the company would make sure the clean-up is complete.

"One of the critical aspects that we have in selecting early restoration is to ensure that these areas are no longer in a response, they would not be affected by any potential for re-oiling," Bullock said.

The second proposed project is an $11million restoration of oyster habitat. Oyster biologist Ed Cake of Ocean Springs has seen that in Louisiana, there’s been an alarming absence of oysters after similar restoration of cultch, a material that's usually ground-up limestone and oyster shells, where young oysters grow.

"The fact that they’re going to think of putting oyster cultch out there at a time when there are no oysters to spawn, they’re going to be wasting millions of dollars, in my estimation, just like they’ve done in Louisiana,'" said Cake.

Despite public meetings and calls for proposals, some residents complain the process has not been transparent.  Richard Harrell, with the Department of Environmental Quality, said the proposals are not set in stone.

"We wanted to take these, go forward with them to the public, see if here’s additional input the public has to modify or change these projects, or come up with something totally different," Harrell said.

Three public hearings on Gulf restoration will be held next week - in Gautier, Gulfport and Bay Saint Louis.



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