The agencies responsible for natural resources damaged by the Deepwater BP oil spill will represent the public during the damage assessment process, Louisiana officials said at public meetings throughout the state in late October.
Hosting the meetings were the state co-trustees the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Louisiana's lead trustee agency for the BP oil spill, the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator's Office, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.
After introductory remarks from Drue Banta, representing the Governor's Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration, Karolien Debusschere, deputy coordinator for LOSCO, gave an overview of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process.
Banta, Debusschere, and Stephanie Morris, special counsel for LOSCO, answered questions after the presentation.
Questions ranged from concerns about public input in the process to a timeline for completing assessment, restoration planning, and implementation. "The NRDA process is designed to be lengthy," Morris said. "We want to be sure we don't short change Louisiana resources and that our assessment is based on sound science."
Banta described the possibility for emergency and early restoration projects to take place while assessment is still going on.
"Louisiana can't wait years for our resources to be restored," she said. "Early on we're looking to implement large-scale, sustainable coastal restoration projects."
The public will have additional opportunities to be involved in NRDA including submitting and commenting on restoration project ideas.
Debusschere stressed that these were the first in a series of meetings that will take place as the BP spill assessment and restoration process progresses.
The next public meeting about the process has been scheduled for November 11 in Spanish Fort, Alabama. Future meeting dates will also be posted on the events calendar.