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Gulf Coast Voters Want BP Money to Fund Ecosystem Restoration

Gulf Coast voters still concerned about the impacts of Deepwater Horizon spill. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Gulf Coast voters still concerned about the impacts of Deepwater Horizon spill. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
July 17, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas - Voters along the Gulf Coast still are worried about the long-term impacts of the BP oil spill, and a majority want BP settlement money to pay for restoration and conservation projects, according to a new poll from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and The Nature Conservancy.

Chris Macaluso, director of the partnership's Center for Marine Fisheries, said Republicans surveyed were even more likely than Democrats to prioritize restoring the ecosystem over construction projects.

"This is a bipartisan issue," he said. "People across the Gulf are very concerned about the habitat quality. They want to see good access to quality fishing and wildlife opportunities. They want to see good healthy beaches and marshes and bays and barrier islands."

More than a third of the residents surveyed said they had purchased a license to hunt or fish in the last three years. The poll found these sportsmen and women also were more likely to back conservation efforts over building convention centers and roads.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, recreational fishing in Texas is a $1.5 billion-a-year industry. Macaluso said the poll's findings show voters realize investing in the Gulf's fisheries, wildlife, beaches and waters does not have to be a choice between the ecosystem and the economy.

"This is an opportunity to make a large investment financially in getting good-quality ecosystems in the Gulf," he said, "and they don't want to see this opportunity squandered."

Two weeks ago, BP agreed to an $18.7 billion settlement. The money will be distributed to five Gulf states affected; Texas' portion is $788-million. The agreement comes slightly more than five years after the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers and releasing almost 4 billion barrels of oil.

The poll results are online at trcp.org. The Commerce Department report is at st.nmfs.noaa.gov.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - TX