Restoration efforts on the Mississippi Coast in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill received a big boost recently.
Gov. Phil Bryant has announced 15 projects totaling more than $114 million through three recovery funding sources.
We are pleased that many of the projects announced focus on improving the health of our Coast and marine ecosystems. This shows the state’s commitment to using this unique windfall as a transformative opportunity for not only healing damage from the spill, but helping address many decades-old challenges facing coastal Mississippi — like water quality problems, coastal erosion and poorly planned development.
These investments not only will benefit coastal marshes and wildlife but they support our seafood and tourism industries that depend on a healthy coast and help our communities become more resilient in the face of urban growth and extreme weather.
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In another big move, Mississippi became the first Gulf state to host a Restoration Summit, which provided a platform to update the public, community leaders and others on the state’s current and planned restoration efforts.
As conservation groups who have been working together to ensure our leaders fund projects that have a positive and lasting benefit for Mississippi’s natural resources, we are buoyed to see our state making great strides toward meaningful recovery.
We’re also energized that Mississippi continues to demonstrate a thoughtful strategic approach by launching a Restoration Gameplan that reflects several key cornerstones — such as transparency, leveraging of funds and partnerships, and science-based decision-making.
Another laudable effort is that Mississippi has pledged to hold an annual public update for years to come.
Most recently, we partnered with other nonprofits to develop a shared set of environmental and economic recovery priorities called “Restoration Framework: A Vision to Support Comprehensive Restoration for Coastal Mississippi.”
The framework presents strategies for nine goals that have been established under the different recovery processes. Each strategy identifies opportunities to leverage funds and coordinate partnerships across the various restoration programs as well as other potential funds available outside Gulf recovery efforts.
Notably, more than 90 percent of these most recently proposed investments align closely with recommendations in this framework — from establishing a water quality improvements program and protecting key wildlife habitats to environmental monitoring and restoration planning.
Public input remains a key ingredient for Mississippi to develop, prioritize and implement a well-coordinated multigenerational effort to successfully restore our state’s Coast and economy. Resources like this Restoration Framework and those shared at the state’s Restoration Summit go a long way to help the public stay informed and engaged.
There is much to celebrate as Mississippi embarks on its next restoration chapter, but in truth, a lot of hard work lies ahead.
Coastal restoration supporters can review and comment on the state’s most recent slate of projects by visiting http://www.restore.ms/ before Jan. 17.
The Coast needs your voice as we work together to expand Mississippi’s ongoing restoration dialogue.
Jill Mastrototaro, Mississippi/Alabama policy specialist, National Wildlife Federation, Ridgeland
Robert Smith, coastal program coordinator, Wildlife Mississippi, Biloxi
Judy Steckler, executive director, Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, Biloxi