A final strategy for long-term restoration of the Gulf of Mexico has been released by the task force appointed by President Obama, following last year's deepwater horizon drilling rig explosion and years of deterioration.
The explosion off the coast of Louisiana in April of 2010 resulted in the nation's worst oil spill.
Six months after the event, President Obama established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Task Force, committing the country to a full restoration of the Gulf region. It also followed a decades-long decline of the Gulf ecosystem. Lisa Jackson, administrator of the EPA, chaired the task force that identified four broad goals to make long term restoration easier. She made the announcement here in Houston:
"Number one: Restore and conserve habitat. Number two: To restore water quality. Three: To replenish and protect living coastal and marine resources. And number four: To enhance community resilience. It is worth noting that this is the first time ever, that the five Gulf states and the federal government have agreed on a unified strategic approach."
After the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Jackson says the task force brought together people from across all along the Gulf coast, to discuss tackling both the immediate environmental devastation and long term deterioration that threatens the health, the environment and economy of the gulf coast.
"It has all come to this moment, when we move from planning, to supporting real home-gown actions aimed at restoring this vital eco-system. The health of the Gulf of Mexico eco-system starts and ends with the people who visit the gulf, who work in the region, who depend on its resources, and especially those who live here, who know its needs and challenges best."
"As a result of this task force, we have five states and the federal government, finally recognizing with unanimity, that the Gulf of Mexico is extremely important for the entire United States. And I think that may be the first time that's ever happened. It's seldom that when you hear 'I'm from the federal government, I'm here to help,' that that actually happens that way. And so far, that's what's happened here."
"Unfortunately it took the oil spill to kind of make the focus on the gulf, and how important the Gulf of Mexico is, really to the five states along it. We've been kind of withdrawing from the bank account so to speak, for a long time without making any deposits, and that can only go on for so long."
The task force will now begin implementing the strategy with the announcement of several new initiatives, including $50 million from the Agriculture Department
to help agriculture producers in river basins improve water quality, increase water conservation and enhance wildlife habitat.