December 15, 2011 12:16:00 PM
By HOLBROOK MOHR
JACKSON -- Citing "widespread and extensive" damage from the disastrous 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a group of state and federal environmental officials said Wednesday it's important to begin restoration and listed eight proposed projects to kick off the effort.
The target areas include oyster beds, salt marshes, dunes and even a boat ramp.
The Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Trustees is a group of officials from state and federal agencies that has been studying damage caused by the oil spill. The group said in a 123-page report released Wednesday that damage to the Gulf was "widespread and extensive and will take years to assess completely."
The group said it's important to begin restoring the Gulf even though the extent of damage is not yet known. The initial projects proposed Wednesday include oyster restoration in Mississippi and Louisiana and beach restoration in Alabama and Florida. A series of meetings is planned to solicit public input. Future projects could include Texas.
In addition to fixing damage to the environment, some of the projects would "compensate the public for its lost use of the resources during the time they were damaged." That's the case in a proposal to build four boat ramp facilities in Florida.
The proposed projects are:
n The Lake Hermitage Marsh Creation Project in Plaquemines Parish, La., would create 104 acres of marsh at an estimated cost of $13.2 million.
n The Louisiana Oyster Cultch Project in St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Lafourche, Jefferson and Terrebonne parishes would involve 850 acres of cultch placement on public oyster seed grounds and improvements to an existing oyster bed at an estimated cost of $14.8 million. Cultch is habitat where oyster larvae can anchor and grow.
n The Mississippi Oyster Cultch Restoration Project in the Mississippi Sound near Hancock and Harrison counties would involve 1,430 acres at an estimated cost of $11 million.
nThe Mississippi Artificial Reef Habitat Project near Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties would involve 100 acres of near-shore artificial reef at an estimated cost $2.6 million.
n The Marsh Island (Portersville Bay) Marsh Creation project in Mobile County, Ala., would involve 24 acres of existing salt marsh and the creation of 50 acres of salt marsh and 5,000 feet of tidal creeks at an estimated cost of $9.4 million.
nThe Alabama Dune Restoration Cooperative Project in Baldwin County, Ala., would involve 55 acres of dunes at an estimated cost of $1.1 million.
n The Florida (Pensacola Beach) Dune Restoration Project in Escambia County would involve 20 acres of coastal dune habitat at an estimated cost of $585,898
n The Florida Boat Ramp Enhancement and Construction Project in Escambia County, Fla., would involve the construction of four boat ramp facilities at an estimated cost of $4.4 million.
BP has set aside $1 billion dollars to fund early restoration projects agreed upon by BP and the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Trustees. The report released Wednesday said multiple "rounds of project identification, negotiation with BP, and public comment will continue until the entire $1 billion in funding is committed."
Mississippi's representative in the group, Trudy D. Fisher, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, said public meetings will be held in each of Mississippi's three coastal counties. The meetings are scheduled for Jan. 17 in Jackson County, Jan. 18 in Harrison County and Jan. 19 Hancock County.
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