Restoration of the Gulf

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported today that the state of Louisiana has selected five projects that it will ask the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to fund. The Council is made up of federal and Gulf Coast state officials, and they have the ability to fund restoration projects using the fines paid by the companies involved in the 2010 Gulf spill. Other states and Indian tribes will also be submitting proposals.

It’s always interesting to me to read about restoration projects, since they sometimes seem far removed from the original problem. For example, the projects Louisiana are proposing include  creating dunes and reefs. Dunes and reefs weren’t directly removed by the oil spill, but we can’t necessarily “fix” the specific harm caused by a spill. Restoration projects instead are designed to simply improve the habitat.

Restoration projects are an important way that we can help the environment–and by extension, all the species in it–that are degraded by our activities, whether they be disastrous but discrete incidents like oil spills, or just every day, gradual insults such as erosion, overfishing, or climate change. For this reason, during an oil spill response we need to be assiduous in collecting evidence (i.e., processing oil-affected animals) because it is this evidence that allows the government to levy fines and raise funds for restoration projects.

It’s unknown yet which projects will be selected for funding, but I’m sure all of them are worthy attempts at restoring the beautiful and fragile Gulf ecosystem. As humans, we often cause environmental damage, but we can also attempt to ameliorate it. Let’s hope that in the decades to come, the restoration projects tip the balance!


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