The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has approved $33.5 million for five projects that will fund the acquisition of vulnerable parcels of coastal land and move forward restoration and conservation projects along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.
Separate from the RESTORE Act and Alabama’s own civil settlements with BP, the funds for these projects are derived from the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund that NFWF uses to manage criminal fines BP has paid since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Of the $2.5 billion settlement agreed to in those 2013 criminal pleadings, a total of $356 million is earmarked for projects in Alabama. To date, $148 million in funding has been approved for 24 restoration projects along the coast of Mobile and Baldwin counties.
Announcing the newest projects on Tuesday, Gov. Kay Ivey said local, state and federal officials remain committed to “the long-term sustainability” of Alabama’s coast.
“The harm caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill remains ever-present in our minds today,” Ivey said in a press statement. “This additional $33 million in funding for Alabama from NFWF will further strengthen our long-term recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast.”
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Acquisition — $5.9 million
Identified by NFWS as one of its highest priorities in the state, this project will fund the acquisition of a 251-acre property near the existing Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Baldwin County. According to NFWF, permanent and semipermanent wetlands are scattered across the property along with pine flatwood, saltwater marsh and tidal creek habitats.
Dauphin Island Bird Habitat Acquisition and Enhancement Program — $4.5 million
Designed to enhance coastal bird habitat along a mile of restored beach on Dauphin Island, this project will add sand fencing, dune plantings, signage, and additional sand placement — if necessary — near the island’s existing bird sanctuary. Funding is included to acquire and enhance important habitats in other areas of Dauphin Island to benefit shorebirds, wading birds and seasonal migratory birds.
“Due diligence and landowner outreach will be undertaken as the first step to acquire an estimated 13 acres of undeveloped habitat to protect critically important migratory stopover habitat and facilitate management of contiguous blocks of conservation lands,” NFWF said in its announcement. “Lands acquired through this project will be deeded to and managed by the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary, which will also undertake prescribed fire and invasive species management to enhance the ecological value of these newly protected habitats.”
Little Dauphin Island Restoration Assessment — $1.4 million
This project will provide funding to study both nearshore and onshore restoration options for a future project to enhance and protect Little Dauphin Island. Already part of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Little Dauphin Island is an important nesting and foraging area for several coastal bird species, including several imperiled shorebird species.
Mobile Bay Shore Habitat Conservation and Acquisition Initiative – Phase II — $6.9 million
Phase II of the Mobile Bay Shore Habitat Conservation and Acquisition Initiative will acquire, restore and preserve high‐priority, undeveloped properties within the Perch Creek, Garrows Bend and lower Three Mile Creek watersheds. According to NFWF, those are priority intertidal areas that host riparian, wetland and upland habitats used by a variety of fish and wildlife species injured by the 2010 oil spill.
According to Mayor Sandy Stimpson, the project’s approval will fund land acquisition, marsh restoration, water quality improvements and invasive species management in all three areas in addition to shoreline restoration efforts along Mobile Bay.
“I want to thank all of our partners for turning this vision into a reality,” Stimpson said. “Mobile is a city closely connected to the water, and as one of the largest ports in the country, we were devastated by the BP oil disaster. Citizens lost their jobs, entire industries suffered and many felt hopeless for our future. We’ve surpassed many of these challenges over the years, but we need a resilient coastline to support our growing economy. This project is a strong step in the right direction.”
Salt Aire Shoreline Restoration — $12.7 million
In 2015, NFWF used these same monies to acquire the 233-acre Salt Aire property, which was originally intended to be a shorefront residential development that never came to fruition.
The current project will leverage that acquisition and aims to protect the degraded shoreline and restore of 30 acres of coastal marsh in the area. It’s expected that wave attenuation structures will be built and that beneficial dredge material could be used for marsh creation.