Ten Years After the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

View of tidal marsh - open water and marsh vegetation

April 20, 2020

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred ten year ago - on April 20, 2010. Since the spill, the Department of the Interior has maintained a team of experts that is laser focused on restoration. We know this commitment is important for many reasons, but one of the most important is that the health of the Gulf of Mexico is inextricably linked to the quality of life of Gulf Coast residents and the economy of the Gulf Region.

How We Do Our Work

The Department is a member of two key groups established shortly after the spill. The Deepwater Horizon Natural Resources Damage Assessment Trustees (NRDA Trustees) came together immediately after the spill, as mandated by the Oil Pollution Act. The RESTORE Council came into being in 2012 when Congress passed the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies Act. Both groups are made up of representatives of the five Gulf States and key Federal agencies.

We are also formal advisors to the National Fish and Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, which received $2.5 billion from an earlier settlement with BP.

The Department is the steward of our Nation’s much-loved national parks and wildlife refuges and that is where we are focusing a great deal of our restoration efforts. These parks and refuges provide habitat that is essential to the survival of many species of wildlife injured by the spill and recreation for hundreds of thousands of visitors.

The restoration projects we have already implemented or will implement in the near future are, in and of themselves, truly awe-inspiring. But, another truly special aspect of our work centers on or efforts to create synergy by leveraging multiple funding sources and partners, by implementing projects in multiple locations across the Gulf, and by seeking to benefit multiple natural resources with a single project. By doing these things, we define better projects along with our partners, the five Gulf States and EPA, USDA and NOAA. All of our alliances are founded on an overarching goal of obtaining the greatest environmental benefit from the funding we use.

A Few of Our Restoration Projects

In Florida, the oil spill caused a temporary loss of coastal recreational opportunities. In response, we had two 150-passenger ferries built using NRDA funds. The ferries are now sailing between the City of Pensacola, Pensacola Beach and Gulf Islands National Seashore. This project represents a “win-win” for the National Park Service and local governments because both have wanted the service for decades but have always lacked sufficient funding.

Turtle Runner Ferry

In Alabama, we worked with the State, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Conservation Fund to protect pristine scenic property adjacent to Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge from development. Within the refuge, we rehabilitated an aging trail that is located along the flight path of a vast array of colorful migratory bird species. This enhanced amenity for birdwatchers is helping to boost eco-tourism, an important component of the local economy.

Bon Secour Trail

Off the coast of Louisiana, we have the largest restoration project ever undertaken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – restoration of North Breton Island, a barrier island within Breton Island National Wildlife Refuge. The island is an important nesting spot for the brown pelican, but it has eroded to only a fraction of the size needed to support these birds. This restoration project will not only help a species that was once almost extinct, but it will also act a buffer to the Louisiana mainland.

Aerial of North Breton Island

These are just a few of the 40 or so restoration project the Department is implementing. With 12 more years of funding yet to be received, it appears enormous opportunities for more shared success remain. The Department of the Interior will remain committed to restoring the Gulf of Mexico.

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