Gulf states getting nearly $370M for 24 restoration projects

Deepwater Horizon oil spill 2010. Photo: Spc. Casey Ware / CC BY 2.0

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The five Gulf states are getting nearly $370 million for 24 projects to restore natural resources damaged by the massive 2010 oil spill, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced Tuesday.

Louisiana is receiving $245 million, Alabama $63 million, Florida $32 million, Mississippi $16 million and Texas nearly $12 million, according to a news release.

The oil spill, one of the largest environmental disasters in history, began on April 10, 2010 with an offshore rig explosion and fire. Millions of barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days after the explosion. British Petroleum, which was found primarily responsible for the spill, has paid billions in cleanup costs, settlements and penalties.

This is the fourth and largest round of grants so far from the foundation, which has one of the smallest pots of money resulting from the BP spill in the Gulf. It will get a total of $2.5 billion over five years for projects aimed at repairing the oil spill’s harm to the Gulf states’ natural resources.

The largest chunk, $8.1 billion, will be parceled out under the Natural Resources Damage Assessment program, which evaluates and restores resources affected by oil spills, hazardous waste sites and vessel groundings. The states will receive a total of $5.3 billion under the federal RESTORE Act, which set up a trust fund to get 80 percent of water pollution penalties paid after July 2012.

The foundation’s grants totaled about $100 million in each of the first two years and more than $80 million last year.

Louisiana’s five grants include engineering and design money for two major projects to divert sediment from the Mississippi River to create new wetlands.

Six projects in Alabama include buying and restoring significant coastal habitats.

Four projects in Florida include continuing fisheries monitoring and improving the ability to respond to sea turtle stranding.

Mississippi is getting money for two projects – expanding a program to monitor and help coastal birds and one to protect marine mammals and sea turtles.

The seven projects in Texas include buying up significant coastal habitat and improving critical stretches of shoreline.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the foundation’s grants are part of more than $114 million in BP oil spill money that his state is getting for 15 coastal restoration projects. He said the state is also getting $68 million under the RESTORE Act and $21 million under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment.

Mississippi’s biggest projects are two clean water programs expected to reduce bacteria levels in the water near beaches. The state is getting $45 million in RESTORE Act money for one of them, and $11 million for the other. It’s also getting $11 million to buy key tracts to conserve habitat and help restore Graveline Bay, between Ocean Springs and Pascagoula.

The other two groups did not respond immediately to queries about whether similar announcements were planned Tuesday for Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas.

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