BP earmarking $1 billion to restore natural resources in Gulf (Updated 10:45 a.m.)

Negotiations between the Natural Resource Trustees and BP has resulted in a $1 billion down payment toward early restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico for damage to natural resources resulting from the BP oil disaster.

For Mississippi, "this means our state will receive a minimum of $100 million to use in restoring natural resources," said Trudy Fisher, head of state Department of Environmental Quality and a trustee in the NRDA process.

The Natural Resource Damage Assessment is conducted by a team of agencies and states to determine the BP oil spill's damage to the region and to encourage BP to pay for the cost of repairing it without going to court.

The fact-finding process had collected more than 30,000 samples and pieces of data as of last month.

The trustees of the process include NOAA, the Department of the Interior and the five northern Gulf states.

The early restoration agreement, the largest of its kind ever reached, represents a first step toward fulfilling BP's obligation to fund the complete restoration of injured public resources. This includes the loss of use of those resources by the people living, working and visiting the area, according a press from the NRDA trustees.

The trustees will use the money to help projects like rebuilding coastal marshes, replenishing damaged beaches, conserving sensitive areas of ocean habitat for injured wildlife and restoration of barrier islands and wetlands that provide natural protection from storms.

"The agreement in no way affects the ultimate liability of BP or any other entity for natural resource damages or other liabilities," according to the statement, "but provides an opportunity for restoration to get started sooner."

The U.S. Justice Department helped broker the agreement.