Restoring the Gulf Coast

Restoring the Gulf Coast

In a strange twist of fate, the biggest oil spill in U.S. history may end up saving the South's wetlands and coastlines--if we make the right choices.

By Scott Weidensaul
Published: November-December 2013

Senner's biggest hope is that the Restore Council comes up with a truly comprehensive plan for Gulf restoration--one based on wide public input, focused on ecological interests, and in which proposals are evaluated through an external, peer-reviewed process. While he feels the initial plan adopted in August was a step in the right direction, he and representatives from other groups, including Audubon, say it lacks a solid scientific foundation, and they have urged the council to hire a chief scientist and establish a scientific advisory committee.

It's critical, he and other regional experts agree, that the public strongly encourage the Restore Council and its state representatives to think big, and to work on Gulf recovery at an ecosystem level. The stakes couldn't be higher. "There's an opportunity with RESTORE to address the more systemic degradation in the Gulf in a comprehensive approach, from Texas to Florida and from the coastline out to the blue water," Senner said. "This is serious business, and if restoration decision makers can't find a way to rise above politics as usual, the nation will have squandered a once-in-a-lifetime op- portunity to set the Gulf ecosystem on the pathway to a sustainable future."

Speak Up!

Let the Restore Council and its state representatives know that you want them to think big and work on Gulf recovery at an ecosystem level. Write directly to the Council (, especially during upcoming comment periods. Let the National Audubon Society know about your support for the RESTORE Act by copying on correspondence to legislators. Many decisions will be made at the state level, so influencing proposals from the start, before they get to the full council level, is very important. If you have particular concerns about an individual state project, or want to support one in a Gulf state, write directly to the state-level council member. Find your state's representative at




January 31

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig arrives at the Macondo well site and replaces another drilling rig.

April 20

Deepwater Horizon explodes. Eleven workers die.

April 22

The rig sinks.

April 24

A leak is discovered; an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil a day are being released into the Gulf.

May 2

BP's chairman defends the company's safety record.

May 3

BP says it will pay for the cleanup.

May 9

The slick reaches Louisiana's Chande- leur Islands. Tar balls wash up on Alabama's Dauphin Island.

May 11

BP, Transocean, and Halliburton testify at Senate hearings.

May 31

BP begins its third attempt to cap the oil leak.

June 2

The oil slick continues to spread, nearing beaches in Florida's western Panhandle.

June 14-15

President Obama's first Oval Office address on the spill: "We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused."

June 29

Hurricane Alex postpones cleanup efforts, pushing oil toward Louisiana's Grand Isle and Elmer's Island.

July 5

Tar balls wash up on several state beaches in Texas.

July 15-18

BP completes an operation to cap the leak, and announces that oil has stopped flowing into the Gulf.

July 28

100 days after the spill, more than 205 million gallons of oil has leaked into the Gulf.

September 19

The government says that the well is permanently sealed.


June 29

Congress passes the RESTORE Act.

July 6

President Obama signs the act into law.

November 15

BP pleads guilty to felony misconduct and agrees to pay a $4.5 billion fine.


January 3

Transocean Ltd., the owner of Deepwater Horizon, agrees to pay $1.4 billion for civil and criminal claims.

July 25

Halliburton agrees to plead guilty to destroying evidence and pay a $200,000 fine, and says it will donate $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.


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