Public weighs in on early restoration money from BP

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - On Tuesday night 125 people attended the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) meeting to hear about early restoration projects and to provide input on early restoration following the BP Oil spill in 2010.

The meeting was held at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast campus in Long Beach and organizers said it was a success.

MDEQ invited the public to comment on the types of restoration projects they would like to see implemented in the Gulf of Mexico. Early restoration is money donated by BP to begin different restoration projects. Currently there are 28 projects under consideration for the restoration money.

The meeting was just one of several meetings MDEQ has hosted this summer.

Organizers began the meeting with a slideshow presentation explaining various stages of the plan. There were representatives from some of the federal agencies involved in the restoration including NOAA and the Department of the Interior.

The Department of the Interior Outreach Coordinator Nanciann Regalado said representatives of the Jefferson Davis library spoke in favor of a wetland restoration project.

"Representatives of the natural resource damage assessment trustees heard the comments and that includes Trudy Fisher executive director of MDEQ. Representatives for EPA and the department of the interior also listened to the comments," she said.

Regalado said citizen input helps to define the appropriate scope and content of the funding.

"We'll also hear about people's concerns about how the environment and the economy are so linked that we need to consider people," said Regalado.

Regalado said the audience contained many different kinds of people, fishermen, environmentalists, students, residents in the area and public leaders.

She said she noticed a common theme from the public's input.

"The common theme was that the money we get from BP should be used for environmental restoration only as opposed to citizens who suggested using it for recreation and education projects," she explained. "For example a number of people spoke in favor of putting money into the Infinity Science Center, while others suggested there are better uses for the money."

These meetings are more for the environmental aspect of the project. All of the public's comments will be taken into consideration for the National Resource Damage Assessment trustees to begin preparing a statement for early restorations.

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