Deepwater Horizon Settlement Projects Over $1 Billion | from Alabama (2023)

Porta DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

As conflict between deer hunting groups was at an all-time low, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Commissioner Chris Blankenship took advantage of a meeting of the ADCNR Advisory Board. .

A milestone was reached this year when projects funded by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill program exceeded $1 billion, Commissioner Blankenship said. ADCNR Deepwater Horizon Restoration coordinator Amy Hunter and her colleagues oversee the projects funded under the agreement.

"The big takeaway is that in Mobile and Baldwin counties, which we manage through our Deepwater Horizon section, we have projects worth $1 billion, $29 million," said Commissioner Blankenship. “There are 176 individual projects. That's a lot of money and a lot of work to do. We have six people in this section who are very good at managing projects that will cause a generational change on the Gulf Coast.

“We never want to live through another Deepwater Horizon event where 11 people died. It was a terrible, terrible event on our coast. However, we are trying to do a good job with the money that came out of this deal.

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Among these projects are projects to replenish and protect Alabama's marine and coastal living resources.

"This includes the restoration of oysters and oyster reefs," Commissioner Blankenship said. “We are building artificial reefs worth about $30 million. We are increasing funding for research in response to marine mammal and sea turtle strandings, protection of birds' breeding and feeding habitats, and construction of the Orange Beach Wildlife and Sea Turtle Sanctuary."

Another purpose of the funding is to support and strengthen community resilience during environmental or economic crises. The $65 million projects include the construction of the Gulf Coast Engineering and Research Center at Auburn University in Orange Beach to improve engineering in the coastal environment. A new Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) office is also being built on the coast. The Alabama Seafood Commission is funded, as is Fairhope's Working Waterfront and Green Space initiative.

"Resilience is important for our country as a whole, but especially for our coastal regions," said Commissioner Blankenship. “We are working to become more resilient to storms, droughts or economic downturns that strengthen our communities when we have a negative impact on our state.

"By the way, a few weeks ago Governor (Kay) Ivey created the Resilience Council by Executive Order, and the Department of Conservation Commissioner is one of its members."

Funding will also be used to ensure and improve economic development and infrastructure. The 11 projects, totaling $197.5 million, include the construction of the Africatown Welcome Center, which will house part of Clotilda. The Clotilda, discovered in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, was the last slave ship to carry slaves from Africa to the United States. For another major project, Port of Mobile has built a roll-on, roll-off facility that will facilitate the export of cars and trucks built in Alabama. These funds also include road improvements in Baldwin County.

Approximately $401 million will be used to restore, protect and enhance habitats on the Alabama coast.

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"It's primarily land acquisition," said Commissioner Blankenship. “To date, we have acquired over 13,000 acres of coastal Alabama land for conservation and recreational access. These include the western end of Dauphin Island, Grand Bay Savanna, Pilot Town in Fort Morgan, the Gulf Highlands Estate in Fort Morgan, one of the last undeveloped stretches of beach that was not part of Fort Morgan or the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. It also includes several plots in Weeks Bay, plots in Dauphin Island, Oyster Bay and we have purchased three plots in the Three Rivers area which we have moved to the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.”

The land acquisition also includes areas along the Rio Perdido watershed to create a wildlife corridor from the Rio Perdido Wildlife Management Area to the Lillian Swamp Forever Wild property.

"We've been working for the last six years to bring these protected areas together," said Commissioner Blankenship. “It will be a separate animal corridor with about 80 kilometers of river frontage.

“When this work is completed, we will have more than 30,000 acres along the Perdido River for public access, hunting, hiking, canoe trails and waterfront from the headwaters to Perdido Bay on public land. We used over eight different sources of financing to acquire this property. It shows how working with our divisions and the Deepwater Horizon section has been really effective in bringing it all together for the people of Alabama forever."

An additional $159 million will be used to improve water quality on the Alabama coast by mitigating the effects of sewers and cesspools.

“We are working with utilities to prevent sanitary sewage from overflowing to improve water quality,” said Commissioner Blankenship. “Using funding from Deepwater Horizon and GOMESA (Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act), we performed several septic to sewer conversions in coastal areas such as Fowl River, Grand Bay and Bayou La Batre that are very close to the water.”

Efforts to provide and improve recreation and public access will receive $147 million in funding.

"The oil spill affected not only the environment but also people," said Commissioner Blankenship. “We have lost recreational access to beaches, fishing and many other activities. Under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), much of it is for recreational use, including projects in our state parks. Gulf State Park and its 45 kilometers of trails are perhaps the most obvious example of this. But we're also expanding the camp at Meaher State Park in Mobile Bay, the trail in Fort Morgan, and the development of blue and green trails in the city of Mobile. This included improvements to the pier at Gulf State Park, which had just been completed when Hurricane Sally hit. And the pier at Fort Morgan has been rebuilt. Scott Bannon and Marine Resources oversaw this construction.

Commissioner Blankenship said $39 million in funding from GOMESA has been received this year and the projects will be announced by the governor this summer. Previously, over $120 million in GOMESA funding has been used for various boat access improvements, land acquisitions, other public access to water parks in Mobile, Spanish Fort, and Daphne, water quality improvements, environmental research, and economic development. In addition, beach replenishment projects will begin in late summer at Dauphin Island, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Gulf State Park.

Several years ago, Governor Ivey created Innovate Alabama, an entity that seeks to bring people, businesses, and industry to the state. Commissioner Blankenship is chairman of the unit's Outdoor Recreation Board.

"Innovate Alabama was created to differentiate us from other states, attract or retain workers, and improve the quality of life in Alabama," he said. “One of the things that came out of that was outdoor recreation and the beauty of our state.

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“We have a lot of forest and water in our state, which gives us great opportunities for recreational access. It's a way to differentiate yourself from other states."

Commissioner Blankenship said the board had decided to expand its reach by creating a 19-member Outdoor Recreation Advisory Table covering a variety of recreational and geographic activities. Tim Wood of Selma, a member of the Conservation Advisory Board, is also a participant in the round table.

"We have a list of 13 recommendations that we will bring to Innovate Alabama at the June meeting on things we can do to take advantage of our Alabama strengths," Commissioner Blankenship said.

Commissioner Blankenship said construction work was underway on a number of Alabama state parks across the state, using funds from a bond issue that was overwhelmingly approved by voters last year. He said some areas of the parks may be closed for construction.

"I tell people, 'I'm sorry for our progress. When we're done, you'll be very pleased with the finished project," he said. we are doing a renovation in this park, it will be almost a remodel in this park. I thought maybe 20 or 30 people would show up, but over 100 people showed up at the community center to give their opinions on what they wanted to see in the park. In fact, they canceled the Wednesday evening service at the Baptist Church so that everyone could attend. We are delighted to see so much interest in Lake Lurleen State Park.”

The board was also updated with the Alabama red snapper season, announcing an 85-day season for charter vessels from June 1 to August 25. The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Board will meet June 5-8 in Mobile, where the board will consider a proposal to increase quotas for private recreational fishermen. The private recreational snapper season consists of four-day weekends, from Friday to Monday, beginning May 26 and lasting until stocks last.

"If approved, this would mean an increase of around £110,000 before the end of the year, which would mean an increase of around 20% to our quota," Commissioner Blankenship said. "Our quota this year is about half of previous years, and this increase would help us recover some of that quota, which should ensure we have a long and successful red snapper season this year."

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1. Dianne Ingram, Deepwater Horizon oil spill sea turtle injury summary and restoration update
(Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant)
2. Gulf Coast transformed 10 years after BP spill
(AP Archive)
3. The Worst Man Made Disaster | BP Oil Spill | DOCUMENTARY ENGLISH
4. A senior policy maker with the Gulf Restoration Network said the $18.7 billion settlement between BP
(AP Archive)
5. Gulf Coast transformed 10 years after BP spill
(AP Archive)
6. Deepwater Horizon: The Science Behind NOAA's Unprecedented Response
(NOAA Fisheries)


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