Two coastal restoration projects totaling $68.5M get approval

Five additional projects in the Gulf of Mexico will also benefit the Mississippi coast.

Two coastal restoration projects totaling $68.5M get approval

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Nearly $70 million has been approved for two restoration projects on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that will help improve water quality and enhance the coastal habitat for fish and wildlife.

Gov. Reeves announced Wednesday that the RESTORE Council approved a plan that includes the two restoration projects for Mississippi, as well as five additional projects in the Gulf of Mexico that will also benefit the coast.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality is managing the two restoration projects, which include the Coastal Nearshore Habitat Restoration and Development Program, and the Water Quality Improvement Program for Coastal Mississippi Waters.

“I am pleased the RESTORE Council is moving forward with these restoration projects including two projects in Mississippi. These projects will improve our Gulf Coast’s water quality and enhance coastal habitat for fish and wildlife that are so vital to commercial and recreational opportunities,” said Governor Tate Reeves.

The Coastal Nearshore Habitat Restoration and Development Program will receive $34.6 million. The program will restore and conserve through activities to create, restore, and enhance coastal habitats, including marsh, beach, and dunes through the dedicated sourcing of materials. Program activities include planning, engineering and design, and construction of habitat in the three coastal counties of Mississippi, and builds off work funded by the plan as well as National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund projects.

The remaining $34.25 million will go towards the Water Quality Improvement Program for Coastal Mississippi Waters. This program’s goal is to restore water quality and quantity on the Mississippi Gulf Coast through the identification and implementation of water quality improvement projects. Program activities include planning, engineering and design, septic-to-sewer conversion, implementation of new stormwater and wastewater systems, and repairing/upgrading existing stormwater and wastewater systems. This program would be coordinated with water quality improvement efforts under other funding streams to maximize effectiveness.

The RESTORE Council anticipates that both of these projects will take around ten years to complete.

“For several years we have listened and heard Mississippians ask us to implement projects that improve water quality that in turn improves the ecology of the Coast. These projects will augment initiatives and projects already underway and will help us work to improve water quality and its subsequent benefits,” said Chris Wells, MDEQ Executive Director.

In addition to these two projects the RESTORE Act is also funding additional projects for the five Gulf of Mexico states and several federal agencies. Several of these projects will also benefit Mississippi. They include:

  • Gulf of Mexico Coast Conservation Corps (GulfCorps) Program ($11.9 million) -- the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will use the funding to implement the Gulf of Mexico Coast Conservation Corps (GulfCorps) Program for an additional four years. GulfCorps organizations in each Gulf state will recruit, train, employ and help to inspire hundreds of young adults to produce habitat restoration benefits and become the Gulf of Mexico’s future restoration workforce.
  • Enhancing Gulf Waters through Forested Watershed Restoration ($23 million) -- the U.S. Department of Agriculture will use the funding for the Enhancing Gulf Waters through Forested Watershed Restoration program to provide technical and financial assistance to private landowners and communities in watersheds where forest resources are instrumental to the health of the Gulf. A coordinated cross-boundary effort will be led by state forestry agencies in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi, leveraging the funding and activities of other organizations.
  • Gulf Coast Conservation Reserve Program ($3.1 million) – additional funding for the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Gulf Coast Conservation Reserve Program (GCCRP). NRCS is currently implementing the program in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida for the purpose of protecting and restoring critical wildlife habitat and improving water quality through the development of wildlife habitat, conservation, and forest management plans.
  • Tribal Youth Coastal Restoration Program ($927,000) -- The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs will fund the Tribal Youth Coastal Restoration Program for the following federally-recognized tribes: Chitimacha Tribe, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Seminole Tribe of Florida, and Miccosukee Indian Tribe, and will add the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. Tribes will create projects to protect natural resources and the environment, and maintain a healthy ecosystem, while learning cultural values. These training projects should restore 1,000 acres of habitat on Tribal lands.

The RESTORE Council voted to approve a Funded Priorities List that includes 20 projects across the Gulf Coast under the RESTORE Act’s “Bucket 2.” The projects will be managed by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

Thirty percent of the Clean Water Act penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are directed to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund managed by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council) to implement ecosystem restoration under a Comprehensive Plan, developed by the Council with input from the public, to restore the ecosystem and the economy of the Gulf Coast Region. This 30 percent is referred to as the Council-Selected Restoration Component (or “Bucket 2”). The Council approves Bucket 2 projects and programs for funding in what is called a Funded Priorities List (FPL).

Copyright 2021 WLOX. All rights reserved.