While the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was a tragedy for the Gulf Coast, a silver lining—if you can even call it that—is the RESTORE Act.
The Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act, also known as the RESTORE Act, aims to restore and protect the natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, coastal wetlands, and economy of the Gulf Coast region through administrative and civil penalties paid by the responsible entities.
While he was a TCEQ commissioner, TCEQ Executive Director Toby Baker was designated by the Governor as the Texas representative on the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. As executive director, Baker continues to carry out the implementation of the RESTORE Act in Texas.
The Bayou Greenways Project in Houston, Bahia Grande Land Acquisition at the southern tip of Texas and Powderhorn Ranch near Matagorda Bay demonstrate the continued effort by the state of Texas to restore the Gulf Coast and allow the beauty of Texas’ beaches, marine life and wildlife to be enjoyed by Texans and visitors for years to come.
The Houston Parks Board was awarded more than $5.6 million dollars in RESTORE grant funds to purchase 69 acres of land along major waterways in Houston and Harris County as part of the Bayou Greenways project. The Bayou Greenways connects 150 miles of hike-and-bike trails along nine of Houston’s major bayous, allowing 60 percent of all Houstonians to be within 1.5 miles of a park or greenway.
With the aid of nearly $4.4 million dollars in RESTORE grant funds, partners were able to purchase approximately 2,000 acres of vital wildlife habitat near the southern-most tip of Texas for the Bahia Grande Wetland system conservation project. The properties form a corridor of conservation lands that improves the wildlife habitat corridor between the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
With the assistance of a multi-partner coalition, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation acquired the 17,351-acre Powderhorn Ranch in Calhoun County. The project was made possible by a nearly $35 million dollar grant from criminal penalties associated with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill that were deposited to the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. This property provides pristine areas of freshwater marshland for migratory birds and fishery nurseries along the Texas coast. It’s currently used for bird tours and public hunting and will eventually include a state park that all residents can appreciate for its natural beauty and enjoy through camping and day use.