The Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012, or The RESTORE Act
. The RESTORE Act dedicates 80 percent of any civil and administrative penalties paid under the Clean Water Act, after the enactment of the RESTORE Act, by responsible parties in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Trust Fund for ecosystem restoration, economic recovery, and tourism promotion in the Gulf Coast region. Following resolution of administrative and civil penalties, Texas is expected to receive at least $550 million in RESTORE funds through 2033. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council
(Council) is charged with helping to restore the ecosystem and economy of the Gulf Coast region by developing and overseeing the implementation of the RESTORE Act. The Council includes the Governors of the States of Alabama
and Texas and the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Agriculture Army, Homeland Security and the Interior and the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Commissioner, Toby Baker
, has been designated by the Governor of Texas, as the Texas representative on the Council. In addition, the RESTORE Act authorizes the U.S. Treasury to manage the activities conducted by the states under Buckets 1 (Direct Component) and 5 (Centers of Excellence).
The money in the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund will be allocated to the Gulf Coast states and the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council according to the following guidelines:
- 35 percent divided equally between the five Gulf Coast States to be used for ecosystem restoration, economic development & tourism promotion (Direct Component – Bucket 1);
- 30 percent for ecosystem restoration under the Comprehensive Plan developed and approved by the Council (Comprehensive Plan Component – Bucket 2);
- 30 percent divided among the five Gulf Coast States according to a formula to implement State Expenditure Plans, which require Council approval–each Gulf state is guaranteed a minimum of 5 percent of the 30 percent allocation (Spill Impact Component – Bucket 3);
- 2.5 percent dedicated to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science, Observation, Monitoring & Technology Program; and
- 2.5 percent allocated to the Gulf Coast States to award grants to establish Centers of Excellence/Bucket 5.
Allocation of Funds Under the RESTORE Act
In 2016, the Council and the State of Texas recognize this unique and unprecedented opportunity to implement a coordinated Gulf region-wide restoration effort. The Council’s five goals included in the Plan are: (1) Restore and Conserve Habitat
– Restore and conserve the health, diversity, and resilience of key coastal, estuarine, and marine habitats. (2) Restore Water Quality
– Restore and protect water quality of the Gulf Coast regions fresh, estuarine, and marine waters. (3) Replenish and Protect Living Coastal
and Marine Resources – Restore and protect healthy, diverse, and sustainable living coastal and marine resources. (4) Enhance Community Resilience
– Build upon and sustain communities with capacity to adapt to short- and long-term changes. (5) Restore and Revitalize the Gulf Economy
– Enhance the sustainability and resiliency of the Gulf economy. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) adopted the 2016 Comprehensive Plan
. The Plan provides strategic guidance for the Council to follow as it makes decisions on funding projects and activities aimed at restoring the Gulf of Mexico. The plan provides a framework to implement a coordinated region-wide restoration effort in a way that restores, protects and revitalizes the Gulf Coast region following the DWH oil spill. The Initial Comprehensive Plan provides a framework to implement a coordinated region-wide restoration effort in a way that restores, protects, and revitalizes the Gulf Coast region following the DWH oil spill. For additional information on the Plan, visit the Council’s website at www.RestoreTheGulf.gov
In his capacity as TCEQ Commissioner, Toby Baker was appointed by the Governor to perform RESTORE-related duties for Texas, including representing the state on the federal RESTORE Council. Baker is responsible for directing the state’s activities to secure RESTORE funds associated with four of the five components under the federal RESTORE Act. These components include: Direct (Bucket 1), Council-Selected (Bucket 2), Spill Impact (Bucket 3), and Centers of Excellence (Bucket 5). Baker’s gubernatorial appointment to the Council remained in place when he became the TCEQ Executive Director.
RESTORE Components (Buckets)
Direct Component (Bucket 1)
Under Bucket 1, 35% of the RESTORE Funds are available in equal amounts to each of the five Gulf Coast states. Each state must submit a Multiyear Implementation Plan (MIP) to the U.S. Treasury prior to receiving grant awards. Funds under Bucket 1 provide the Gulf states with the most discretion in selecting projects to receive grants. Projects receiving Bucket 1 funds must address ecosystem restoration and economic development along the Texas Coast. See above for updates on the latest Bucket 1 activities.
Council-Selected Component (Bucket 2)
The RESTORE Council receives 30% of the total RESTORE funds to support Bucket 2 projects. Projects funded under Bucket 2 implement the RESTORE Council’s Comprehensive Plan
. The grant funds can be used for ecosystem restoration and protection in the Gulf Coast region. Council Members, representing the five Gulf Coast states and six federal agencies, submit projects to the RESTORE Council for consideration. Project selection is competitive and is based on priority criteria presented in the federal RESTORE Act. Under the first round of Bucket 2 funding, referred to as FPL 1, approximately $26 million for six projects
were approved for Texas. Four
of the six projects in Texas will be managed by the state, through the TCEQ. Those projects include: Matagorda Bay System Landscape Conservation, Bayou Greenways, Bahia Grande Coastal Corridor, and Texas Beneficial Use and Marsh Restoration. Also under FPL 1, ,NOAA, through the U.S. Department of Interior, was awarded grant funds to engage the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Conservation Corps (“GulfCorps”) Program in developing a Gulf-wide conservation corps that will contribute to meaningful Gulf of Mexico ecosystem restoration benefiting coastal habitat and water quality in each of the Gulf coast states, while economically benefiting coastal communities through education, training, and employment opportunities. The GulfCorps recruits, trains, and employs workers to implement habitat restoration projects and develop skills in support of long-term Gulf coast restoration. NOAA established a cooperative agreement with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to develop and administer the GulfCorps program within each Gulf state, including Texas. Activities conducted by the Texas GulfCorps crew in the spring of 2018 included: Armand Bayou Nature Center Stewardship, the crew:
- constructed and installed dozens of nesting platforms at the island with the heron and egret rookery;
- cut and removed Chinese Tallow on 5.8 acres of land;
- spot-treated the cut-stumps of those invasive species with herbicide to hamper re-growth;
- removed 18 cubic feet of trash; planted 0.4 acres of saltmarsh species; and
- removed 300 feet of obstructing fence lines.
Artist Boat’s Coastal Heritage Preserve Stewardship, the crew:
- cut and removed Chinese Tallow on 4.55 acres of land;
- spot-treated the cut-stumps of those invasive species with herbicide to hamper re-growth;
- cleared almost 100 cubic feet of underbrush; constructed 90 feet of new fence line; and
- conducted fuel reduction thinning on 0.2 acres.
Additionally, the Texas crew received training in the following:
- Invasive Species Identification
- Herbicide Application
- Trail Building Training
- Wilderness First Aid/CPR
- Chainsaw Certification and Training
- Tree Felling Training
- Coastal Prairie Ecosystems and Rookery Dynamics Educational Training
- SeaGrant Marine Mammal Oil Spill Response Seminar
- Risk Management; Group Dynamics; Conservation Ethics; Diversity and Inclusion.
- Crew activities began again in September 2018. See specific information on all the NOAA-selected projects.
See above for updates on the latest Bucket 2 activities.
Spill Impact Component (Bucket 3)
Under Bucket 3, 30% of RESTORE Funds is divided among the five Gulf Coast states based on a RESTORE Council approved funding allocation formula. Under this formula Texas receives 7.58% of the 30%. The eligibility requirements to receive Bucket 3 grant funds are similar to Bucket 1; ecological and economic projects for restoration of the Texas Gulf Coast region. To receive grant funds, the states are required to submit a State Expenditure Plan (SEP) for Council approval. The SEP submitted by Baker on behalf of the state was approved by the RESTORE Council Chair in March 2019. See above for updates on the latest Bucket 3 activities.
Centers of Excellence Component (Bucket 5)
Texas was the first state in the nation to receive money from the RESTORE Trust Fund through an award from the U.S. Treasury to fund two Centers of Excellence. The two centers, Texas OneGulf, at Texas A&M, Corpus Christi and Subsea Systems Institute, at the University of Houston, equally share an initial $4,038,000. The establishment of the centers is part of Texas’ ongoing implementation of the RESTORE Act which requires that the five Gulf States affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill establish centers to conduct research on the Gulf Coast Region. An amended award for Bucket 5 funds was issued by Treasury. The amended award provides an additional $1,000,000 to each of the two Texas Centers of Excellence through 2020, for a total of $3,018,000 each. The additional funds will support both the projects conducted by the Centers, as well as the Centers’ administrative expenses. The Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence, established in January 2015 and led by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, is a consortium of Texas marine oriented science and human health institutions. Their efforts focus on research activities that emphasize sustainable and resilient growth, as well as economic and commercial development in the coastal region. For more information on the Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence, visit the Texas OneGulf website at http://www.texasonegulf.org/
The Subsea Systems Institute was established in 2015 under collaboration between the University of Houston, Rice University and the Johnson Space Center (NASA). Their focus is offshore energy development, including research and technology to improve the sustainable and safe development of energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico. For more information on the Subsea Institute, visit http://www.uh.edu/uh-energy/research/subsea-institute/
Please check this website periodically for opportunities for public participation, as well as updates on on-going activities.