Gulf Restoration Council holds first public meeting - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulf Restoration Council holds first public meeting

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MOBILE, AL (WLOX) -

The group that's developing plans for spending billions of dollars in BP money held its first public meeting in Mobile on Tuesday.

The Gulf Restoration Council will help allocate civil penalties the company is expected to pay because of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It's part of an ongoing and lengthy process in recovering from the disaster

Alabama's governor urged the council to focus on the most significant aspect of the oil spill.

"It's not just our economy. It's people. And we need to always remember that," said Governor Robert Bentley.

People like commercial fisherman Russell Underwood.

"My main concern right now is the deep water recovery. The snapper. The grouper. The king mackerel," he told the council.

The group will oversee a broad range of restoration.

"Environmental restoration projects as well as the economic type projects. They would be funded from 80 percent of civil penalties that come from the clean water act against responsible parties for the oil spill," said Mississippi DEQ Director Trudy Fisher.

Some of that money will be earmarked for research. What are the long range impacts?

"Certainly there are some impacts we may not be aware of, that are indirect. That we need to address. And again, I think that's where the research is going to help us identify what those were and how to deal with them," said Dr. Mark Lasalle, with the Pascagoula River Audubon Center.

The president of the Bay-Waveland school board was struck by the sheer scope of the process.

"That's the bureaucracy level I'm seeing. It's so overwhelming. You know, where does the rubber meet the road? Beyond this. Are we still going to be talking about BP ten years from now," Dr. Sherry Ponder observed.

Plaquimines Parish President Billy Nungesser has talked plenty about the oil spill's impact.

"This year we had a hurricane that devastated parts of my parish and flooded 'em. Obviously, the money needs to flow quickly down to the local level so we can get restoration projects started," he explained.

The amount of money hasn't even been determined yet. But this council's job is to have a plan in place for spending those restoration dollars when they become reality.

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