The Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act) established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) as an independent federal entity. Under the Spill Impact Component of the RESTORE Act, commonly referred to as “Bucket 3”, 30 percent of the funds in the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund (Trust Fund) are disbursed to the five Gulf Coast States.
In order for the Spill Impact Component funds to be disbursed to a State or their administrative agent, the RESTORE Act requires each State to develop a State Expenditure Plan (SEP) and submit it to the Council Chairperson for approval. These projects, programs, and activities will be implemented in a manner consistent with the requirements of the RESTORE Act, as well as the goals and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan.
On March 17, 2016, the Council updated the Guidelines for State Expenditure Plans describing the required elements, the submittal process, and the Council Chairperson evaluation standards. In addition, the guidelines describe the requirements for a Planning SEP authorized by the RESTORE Act Spill Impact Component Planning Allocation Final Rule (80 FR 1584).
The Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Spill Impact Component Implementation Grants (Link to Federal Register) provides detailed information and requirements on the two phase SEP application process. The submittal and approval of the SEP by the Council Chairperson is the first phase of the application process. After the SEP has been approved by the Council Chairperson, the second phase, submission of a grant application, follows. Both the SEP and the grant application must be submitted through the Restoration Assistance and Award Management System (RAAMS), an electronic grants system utilized by the RESTORE Council for the management of grants and interagency agreements. The portal to RAAMS and the RAAMS User’s Guide can be found on the Council Grants Office page.
Once a State Expenditure Plan is approved by the Council, a grant will be awarded to the State. Effective April 4, 2016, a Federal court in Louisiana approved and entered the consent decree. Using the formula and information set forth in the Rule, the allocation of Spill Impact Component funds for specific projects, programs, and activities identified in the State Expenditure Plan is:
- Alabama- 20.40 percent
- Florida- 18.36 percent;
- Louisiana- 34.59 percent;
- Mississippi- 19.07 percent; and
- Texas- 7.58 percent.
Eligible SEP Activities
The RESTORE Act provides the scope of activities eligible for funding under the Spill Impact Component. As described in the Act, these activities can include:
- Restoration and protection of the natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, and coastal wetlands of the Gulf Coast region.
- Mitigation of damage to fish, wildlife, and natural resources.
- Implementation of a federally approved marine, coastal, or comprehensive conservation management plan, including fisheries monitoring.
- Workforce development and job creation.
- Improvements to or on State parks located in coastal areas affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
- Infrastructure projects benefitting the economy or ecosystem resources, including port infrastructure.
- Coastal flood protection and related infrastructure.
- Planning assistance.
- Administrative costs of complying with the Act.
- Promotion of tourism in the Gulf Coast region, including recreational fishing.
- Promotion of the consumption of seafood harvested from the Gulf Coast region.
Council Chair Approves Louisiana State Expenditure Plan
The Council Chair, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), has approved the Louisiana State Expenditure Plan (SEP) based on the Council Acting Executive Director’s approval recommendation. The Council Chair has found the Louisiana SEP is complete and meets all requirements contained in the RESTORE Act, the Department of the Treasury’s implementing regulations (31 C.F.R. Part 34), and the Council’s SEP Guidelines. USDA provided Louisiana with a letter of approval, reiterating the Council’s commitment to ensuring an efficient and effective process for funding the activities in the Louisiana SEP. Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority issued a press release providing additional information about their projects and next steps.
Acting Executive Director Recommends Approval of Mississippi State Expenditure Plan
The Council's Acting Executive Director has recommended approval of Mississippi's State Expenditure Plan (SEP) to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Council Chair. Under the Spill Impact Component of the RESTORE Act, States are required to develop SEPs and submit them for approval by the Council Chair. A draft approval letter has been provided to the USDA, pending their decision.