Fisher: Two post-oil spill restoration projects moving forward

MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — Two Mississippi projects aimed at restoring marine resources damaged in 2010 by the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Oil Spill are moving forward as part of Phase I of the DWH Early Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment (Phase I plan), according to Mississippi trustee Trudy D. Fisher, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

The projects include oyster reef restoration and enhancement of nearshore artificial reefs.

“The Phase I projects are an important first step, but only a first step, toward addressing the full extent of injuries caused by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill,” Fisher said. “I want to stress that this is a down payment on restoration projects. We are already actively involved in the formulation of additional projects to go forward as a part of early restoration. Our intent is to swiftly address injuries while also securing essential scientific data that will fully quantify the longer-term injuries.”

The Phase I plan, which was presented to the public for comment earlier this year, provides for implementation of eight early restoration projects, across five Gulf states, totaling approximately $60 million.  The Phase I plan, as well as public comments and responses, can be reviewed at www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.

Funding for this first round of projects is the result of a negotiated commitment from BP made a year ago to fund $1 billion in early restoration projects. The agreement is the largest of its kind ever reached.  Mississippi is due a minimum of $100 million in projects from the $1 billion down payment. This money, Fisher says, will be used aggressively in targeting early restoration projects that range from
marshes and estuaries, to human-use losses.

“Mississippi will spend every dollar of its allotted early restoration funding to restore Gulf resources,” said Fisher.

Mississippi’s oyster reef project, valued at an estimated $11 million, will restore and enhance oyster cultch within the existing footprint of the oyster harvest areas in the Mississippi Sound. This will assist the state in recovering its “lost oyster crop.” Of Mississippi’s existing 12,000 acres of oyster cultch, the project will enhance approximately 1,430 acres by placing cultch material (oyster shell, limestone or crushed concrete or some combination thereof) as needed. In the enhanced areas, Mississippians can expect to see harvestable oyster production within three to six years following placement of the cultch.

The artificial reef habitat project, valued at an estimated $2.6 million, will enhance nearshore artificial reefs in the coastal waters of Mississippi. Enhancement of these reefs, which provide valuable hard bottom foraging and shelter sites for smaller encrusting organisms, will restore injured shallow-water resources and fragile estuaries. Currently there are 67 existing reef areas (each approximately three acres in size) that will be enhanced with clean, crushed concrete. As a result of this project, habitat for small crustaceans and mollusks, such as juvenile shrimp, crab
and oysters that live on the reef and in the sediment (secondary productivity), will increase overall reef productivity, which is the base of the food web.

Together, these projects are anticipated to involve the planting of over 17,000 dump truck loads of shell and other suitable material. The MDEQ, which will manage both, anticipates using clean Katrina rubble for a large part of the projects.

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