Show your love (for the Gulf): NRDA public comment period ends Feb. 14
January 26, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), Restoration Projects

By Whit Remer, Environmental Defense Fund

Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to tell loved ones how much they are cherished. For residents of the Gulf Coast, Feb. 14 is the last day to tell the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) trustees how much meaningful restoration in the Gulf means to you.

On Dec. 14, 2011, the trustees released a Draft Phase I Early Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment that proposes two restoration projects in Louisiana. The public comment period opened Dec. 14 and continues for 60 days, closing Feb. 14, 2012.

Researchers assess the oiling of marshes in Barataria Bay, La. (Credit: www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov)

The opportunity for public comment is an important part of any government activity that affects citizens near a project. Under the Oil Pollution Act, trustees must provide at least 30 days for public input and must adequately consider all comments. While commenting is not limited to Gulf Coast residents, they certainly have a lot at stake. The Louisiana projects selected by the trustees include seeding 800 acres of public oyster grounds and revitalizing 104 new acres of marsh in St. Bernard Parish. Commenting on these projects is important for a variety of reasons, from improving the individual proposals to increasing the accountability and transparency of the process. It also helps inform the trustees about whether they are meeting restoration goals in the eyes of the public — after all, it’s the fishermen, bird watchers and oyster lovers who will be the ones reporting firsthand about how recovery is progressing.

On Dec. 14, 2011, the trustees released a Draft Phase I Early Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessmentthat proposes two restoration projects in Louisiana. The public comment period opened Dec. 14 and continues for 60 days, closing Feb. 14, 2012. (Photo credit: www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov)

Commenting on the projects does not require any special tools or expertise, and anyone can comment either online or by mail. The comments can be as simple as letting the trustees know they are doing a good job, or contain more critical comments regarding project selection and prioritization. Our coalition, for example, developed Core Principles and Selection Criteria that we believe the trustees should consider when selecting projects. Feel free to review these Principles and Criteria here.

There are other organizations also working in the Gulf to support citizens’ participation in these processes and ability to write meaningful and productive comments. For example, the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) has developed a series of programs designed specifically to support community and stakeholder engagement in Gulf restoration and recovery.

In fall 2010, ELI began working with local partners to develop and host a series of workshops in the Gulf to help community members engage in the NRDA process. To supplement the workshops, ELI created fact sheets (available in English, Vietnamese and Spanish) that describe the efforts to address economic and natural resource damages. ELI is expanding this work in 2012 with new workshops and fact sheets that clarify the relationships between the various ongoing processes, as well as other materials about how things may develop. You can access ELI’s resources on Gulf restoration here.

While the trustees may enjoy chocolate and candy hearts, save those for your loved ones!

5 Responses to Show your love (for the Gulf): NRDA public comment period ends Feb. 14

  1. Sharrel McMurphy says:

    We seem to be able to find money for unnecessary projects but this should have been cleaned up by now. The damage to the fish, wildlife, shrimpers, and others trying to live off and make a living off this area are hurting more each day while the oil company that caused the damage is sitting back waiting for someone to MAKE them clean up their mess.

    • wremer says:

      Hi Sharrel,

      Thanks for reading the story and leaving feedback. There are two types of restoration occurring in the Gulf: economic restoration handled by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) and environmental restoration lead by the NRDA trustees. Oystermen and fishers can receive compensation for lost wages caused by the spill through the GCCF. This post is about environmental restoration projects that help bring the oyster grounds and ecologically rich marshes back to health. Environmental projects can often take years to design and approve. It’s commendable that these projects have been selected and are available for public comment less than two years after the spill. If you have any questions about the NRDA process, please do not hesitate to contact me.

      Thanks,
      Whit Remer

      • KENNETH RAGAS says:

        The Mississippi River currently does not contain enough suspended sediment to significantly contribute to deltaic building by diversions. Suction dredging and pipelining borrow from the river bottom is the only method of coastal restoration which is feasable. Small diversions and siphons can be used to control salinity levels. Large fresh water diversions will devastate the present fisheries in the lower Plaquemines Parish area.

  2. Dr. Carol Joan Patterson says:

    I am overjoyed that BP oil fines are to be used to address the damage done to our wildlife and habitats, as well as to the local community. I deeply hope that sufficient money will be spent to help restore the natural patterns of the Mississippi River. It is urgent that our powerful river be allowed to do once again begin rebuilding our incredible delta.

    • KENNETH RAGAS says:

      Pleae try to obtain a copy of the DVD entitled "HARVEST TO RESTORE" put out by BTNEP. It clearly shows that coastal restoration using pipelined borrow from the Mississippi River botton is the only feasably way to restore the Louisiana coast, especially the Barataria Basin area.

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