La. ahead in plans for oil spill funds

PAM BOESCH Correspondent

Louisiana is "light years ahead" of other Gulf Coast states when it comes to planning how to use the money from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to a representative of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

The authority administers the state's coastal restoration activities. Since Louisiana has been making plans to restore its coastline for over a decade, much of the preparation work was done before the RESTORE became law in July of 2012.

RESTORE stands for Resources and Ecosystems Sustainabilty, Tourist Opportunity and Revived Economics of the Gulf States. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council began meetings last week at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center in Houma for the first of its three public engagement sessions.

The oil spill trust fund money is divided according to a specific formula: 30 percent will go to the states - according to a formula that takes into account each state's impact from the Deepwater Horizon rig - for state expenditure plans; 30 percent plus interest will be managed by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council for ecosystem restoration under the comprehensive plan; 35 percent will be divided equally among the five Gulf Coast states for ecological restoration, economic development and tourism promotion; 2.5 percent plus interest to NOAA for monitoring, observation, science and technology programs; and 2.5 percent plus interest to the states for Centers of Excellence.

The exact amount of trust fund money is not yet known, nor is it known when it will be received, as the cases against all the parties still are winding their way through court.

Funding is based on how much oil gushed into the Gulf. The government has estimated about 200 million barrels flowed into the Gulf of Mexico from April to July 2010, when the well was capped. The fund may top out at about $20 billion, according to government estimates.

A draft comprehensive plan is expected in the spring, with a complete plan coming in July. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council's initial comprehensive plan will include work toward five goals: restore and conserve habitat, restore water quality, replenish and protect living coastal and marine resources, enhance community resilience and restore and revitalize the Gulf Coast economy.

In Louisiana, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority administers the state's coastal restoration activities.