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Gulf Coast Restoration Task Force Outlines Plan to Restore the Ecosystem

By Rhonda Miller | Published 06 Oct 2011 12:46am | comments
Jeff Lotz is interim director of Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs

A task force appointed by President Barack Obama to outline the challenges facing the Gulf of Mexico has released its report. The BP oil spill kicked off the year-long study, but as MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports, many of issues have been going on much longer.

Along the coast in Ocean Springs, the Gulf is shining in the October sun. But the report by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force reveals a sea of problems, including poor water quality, coastal erosion, destruction of marine habitats, and inadequate community involvement.

The report recommends strategies to address these issues. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson says the economies of the Gulf states depend on turning the recommendations into action.

"The loss of wetlands and beaches directly impacts tourism and recreation. The loss of wildlife habitats directly affects seafood catches and sales.  These are serious and urgent problems that have been growing for a long time and are reaching a critical mass," Jackson says.

The recommendations focus on federal, state and local agencies collaborating on issues like reducing pollution from fertilizer run-off.

Gulf Coast Research Lab Interim Director Jeff Lotz likes the cooperative approach.  

"The nice thing about this is, it’s organized under a national policy and it is taking an ecosystem approach. Which simply means, if you try to do something for red drum, for example, how have you increased the numbers of red drum? Is that going to affect some other part of the ecosystem?" Lotz says.

Assistant director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Alice Perry, says protecting offshore environments, like the barrier islands, is a priroity.

"These islands are a part of our ecosystem, but they are also a part of our physical protection. And the task force gave us a chance to make sure the other people around the table from all over the country understood the importance of the barrier islands," says Perry.

The task force is accepting online input from the public until October 26 and will present a final report to President Obama in December

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Jeff Lotz is interim director of Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs


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