SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Making the most of restoring the Gulf of Mexico with billions of BP dollars. We are just days away from the seventh anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill. And to mark that occasion, the National Wildlife Federation released a report on spending those funds.
The NWF report includes 50 proposed projects that would make a difference in the overall health of the Gulf of Mexico. They include restoring wetlands, creating oyster reefs and preserving barrier islands.
"We have a pretty good understanding of the underlying stressors impacting the gulf estuaries. These range from habitat loss, resulting from coastal development, to reduced water quality in our bays, among many, many others. Selecting key projects that address these underlying stressors is essential to gulf recovery efforts," said Ryan Fikes, the Gulf of Mexico staff scientist for the NWF.
Among the projects recommended in Mississippi, is a continued push to acquire private property surrounding the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Another priority involves the barrier islands.
Jill Mastrototaro is the Mississippi-Alabama Gulf Restoration Policy Specialist for the National Wildlife Federation.
"Continued investment and acquisition of our barrier islands is crucial, not only to protect the integrity of Mississippi Sound, but barrier islands provide crucial storm protection for the people of Mississippi," she said.
Enhancing oyster reefs is among the gulf restoration projects recommended. The reports says reefs provide a multitude of benefits, including serving as nursery grounds for a variety of fin fish.
"Oyster reefs really protect shorelines from erosion, they act as shoreline buffers, they keep adjacent marsh healthy, which keeps shorelines and adjacent wetlands healthy. And really help for buffering coastal storms," said Fikes.
Another Mississippi project involves protecting the Dantzler Coastal Preserve in Jackson County.
"It's part of the state's larger Pascagoula River marsh preserve. It's also a gulf ecological management site, so it's really heralded as an incredibly valuable biological resource for the Mississippi coast," said Mastrototaro.
The National Wildlife Federation says more than $16 billion in BP fine money will be allocated through the year 2031 for various gulf restoration projects across the five gulf states.