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Gulf Coalition Calls for Transparency in Selecting Restoration Projects Funded by BP

By Rhonda Miller | Published 01 Dec 2011 09:22am | comments
Buck Lawrence is President of the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain.

The Gulf Future Coalition wants the public to have a bigger role in reviewing projects to restore environmental damage caused by the BP oil spill. MPB’s Rhonda Miller has more on the group’s call for transparency at a forum Wednesday in Biloxi.

The coalition’s report, called Sunshine on the Gulf, evaluates proposed projects in five coastal states affected by the BP oil spill. Raleigh Hoke is the Mississippi organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network, one of the groups in the coalition. 

"Mississippi and the Gulf have a long history of misusing restoration dollars," Hoke said. "So we need to make sure that there’s a transparent process set up now to ensure that BP’s early restoration dollars actually lead to restoration. The current process fails to do that."

While state and federal agencies conduct a natural resources damage assessment expected to take years, BP is funding $1billion in early restoration projects.

Organizations and individuals are submitting project proposals, but the coalition says the criteria for selecting projects is not clear.

Buck Lawrence is President of the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain.  He’s reviewed some of the projects and says they don’t measure up.

"There were several projects that incorporated such things as building parking lots adjacent to boat launch facilities or improving boat launch facilities. That has nothing whatsoever to do with restoring environmental damage that was caused by oil spill," Lawrence said.

Thao Vu, of the Vietnamese-American Fisherfolks and Families, says for those who depend on Gulf to earn a living, there’s nothing more important now than the restoration process.

"The coastal restoration projects, they must restore the marine habitat, the environment, in a way where shrimp can thrive again, fish can thrive again, oysters can start to grow again," said Vu.

So far, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has received 180 suggested restoration projects.

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Buck Lawrence is President of the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain.


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