State residents can help decide coastal restoration spending

Between $150 million and $180 million will be available for projects under a part of the RESTORE Act, and Louisiana residents will play a role in helping decide where the money should go as part of the state’s coastal protection efforts.

Louisiana residents can propose projects for funding to the state, which in turn will evaluate the proposals for inclusion in its own list it will present to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.

Jerome Zeringue, the governor’s executive assistant for coastal activities, said although the state is taking applications, priority will be given to projects that are included in the 2012 state master plan for coastal restoration and protection.

The RESTORE Act — Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act — was signed into law in 2012. The law was meant to respond to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that left 11 men dead and spilled about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, according to government estimates.

The RESTORE Act is just one of several funding mechanisms set up after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Others include the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

Under the RESTORE Act, the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund was set up and managed by the U.S. Treasury Department to accept 80 percent of any civil penalties paid after July 6, 2012, from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

This money is split into several different pots that are ruled under different authorities and are designated for different uses:

Each of the five Gulf of Mexico states gets an equal 7 percent share of a 35 percent cut of the total money. In Louisiana, 70 percent of its share will go to the state, with 30 percent going to coastal parishes based on the amount of shoreline that was oiled, its population and its size.

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council gets 30 percent of the total plus 50 percent of the interest from the money. The 11-member council is made up of representatives of each state plus federal agency representatives.

Another 30 percent will go to states based on the impact the spill had on each state.

The remaining 5 percent will go to Centers of Excellence in each state, which will focus on science of the Gulf of Mexico as well as additional monitoring and science research.

Money currently available is meant to address ecological damage and can be allocated to any Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council member for projects.

Proposals need to be submitted by Sept. 30 and are accepted at Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority meetings.

The state also is sponsoring two meetings in September, with open houses starting at 5:30 p.m. and meetings at 6 p.m. — one on Sept. 4 at the University of New Orleans Homer Hitt Alumni Center, 2000 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans; and the other on Sept. 11 at the Houma Municipal Auditorium, 880 Verret St., Houma.

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.