Today marks the 9-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, when over 200 million gallons of oil surged through the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days. The State of Alabama released an excellent progress report last year noting dollars spent on restoration, projects moving forward, data being collected, and prospects for the future. The more challenging part to explain is what it took to get here.
Oil hit Alabama’s beautiful sugar sand beaches on Memorial Day Weekend 2010 and caused an estimated $1 billion of economic damage – forever reminding us the intrinsic link between the health of our environment and economy. News reports still trickle in with additional findings of human and marine life health impacts. Recent headlines express concern over the health of Coast Guard team members impacted by the use of dispersants. We still see tar balls wash up on our beaches from time to time.
The explosion happened in one day, but its aftermath continues - and so does our work to remedy it. Mobile Baykeeper alone has dedicated thousands of hours, but we’ve worked in partnership with the Alabama Renewal Group, Alabama Coastal Foundation, the Audubon Society, Birmingham Audubon, Conservation Alabama, the National Wildlife Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, and the Ocean Conservancy, and many others. Through the generous support of our members, the Walton Family Foundation, Crampton Trust, the Glaze Foundation, Munson Foundation and many others, Mobile Baykeeper has been able to consistently invest 2-5 hours every week for nine years (that first year was much closer to 80 hours/week!) on addressing the BP Oil Disaster.
Citizens like you have written letters, made phone calls, shown up to meetings, and so much more. Restoration is moving forward because of the community’s incredible, multi-layered, and consistent involvement.
$711 million has funded 122 projects, buying us a mixed bag of proposals. The vast majority are powerful: wetlands restoration, additions to living shorelines, watershed management planning, and sewage treatment facility upgrades. After staying actively engaged in restoration decision making over the past nine years, Mobile Baykeeper is glad to see many worthy projects selected, including Bayou La Batre water & sewer upgrades, Mobile Greenway Initiative, Mobile Blueways Trail, Stormwater management, Wildlife center upgrades, Little Lagoon restoration, and many parks and trails. These efforts will solve real problems for our community, our environment, and our economy.
Other enterprises have not been helpful. Nearly $100 million is slated to go to projects that could have a negative impact on our environment. Nearly $10 million of the road project funding is to pave dirt roads which can be incredibly beneficial if the roads are not impacting water quality and not being targeted solely for growth in the County. These projects merely fill holes in budgets, rather than improving our resiliency.
About $600 million remains for projects that could create generational change for Alabama’s future. We need citizens to stay active, engaged, and vigilant to ensure this money is not squandered. We hope to only have these funds once in our lifetime and we need to focus on improving our economy, environment and community for future generations.