WASHINGTON, May 13, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced the public launch of the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund through which NFWF will administer and monitor $2.544 billion from plea agreements resolving certain criminal cases arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
With today's announcement, NFWF also outlined procedures and criteria for selecting projects for funding in the Gulf Coast states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
As mandated in the plea agreements, NFWF has begun consulting with natural resource management agencies in each of the five Gulf States and with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The input of these agencies will be the primary means through which project selection under the Gulf Fund will be coordinated with actions of the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustee Council and the RESTORE Council.
"We will work to develop consensus among the state and federal resource agencies to identify projects that meet the conditions of the plea agreement to benefit the natural resources of the Gulf Coast," said Jeff Trandahl, NFWF executive director and CEO.
Under the terms of the plea agreements between the Department of Justice and BP and Transocean, the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund will receive a total of $1.272 billion for barrier island and river diversion projects in the state of Louisiana; $356 million for natural resource projects in each of the states of Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi; and $203 million for similar projects in the state of Texas. Payments into the fund will occur over a five-year period, with more than half the funding coming in years four and five.
The first payments totaling $158 million were received in April and the next installments are scheduled for February 2014 under the terms of the agreements.
The primary criterion for project selection is to "remedy harm and eliminate or reduce the risk of future harm to Gulf Coast natural resources" that were impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, as required in the plea agreements.
Further criteria will emphasize projects that advance priorities in natural resource management plans such as those called for under the RESTORE Act, are within reasonable proximity to where impacts occurred as appropriate, are cost-effective, maximize environmental benefits, are science-based and that produce measurable and meaningful conservation outcomes to habitats and species of a type impacted by the oil spill.
The plea agreements require that the funds designated for Louisiana be allocated solely to barrier island restoration projects and river diversion projects along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. In identifying such projects, NFWF will give appropriate consideration to Louisiana's Coastal Master Plan and the Louisiana Coastal Area Mississippi River Hydrodynamic and Delta Management Study.
Organizations or agencies interested in submitting project proposals for consideration should direct that information to the lead state agency in the appropriate Gulf state as identified on the NFWF website (www.nfwf.org/gulf).
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a Congressionally chartered non-profit corporation, is one of the largest private funders of conservation projects in the United States. It is subject to oversight by Congress and a board of directors that includes the heads of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as representatives from states, non-governmental organizations and industry. Its board is appointed by the Secretary of the Interior.
For more information please visit www.nfwf.org.
SOURCE National Fish and Wildlife Foundation