Monies by BP and Transocean are finally being allocated. A big announcement was made today regarding three conservation projects. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (M.D.E.Q.) announced the holders of the funding. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (N.F.W.F.) will give 8.2 million to launch the projects. The projects are designed to fix natural resources that were harmed by the 2010 Gulf oil spill. This money is the first financial obligation from the N.F.W.F.'s Gulf Environmental Fund. The fund was created earlier this year as part of the settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice, BP, and Transocean to settle criminal charges against both companies. Harry McDonald, is a lifelong coastal resident and believes the biggest problem with the waterways is litter. McDonald says, "The biggest concern about the stream is the amount of litter and the destruction that is being created by some of the sport boats, like the air boats." Today's announcement could go a long way toward cleaning up the litter and monitoring the waterways. The M.D.E.Q. will be working with Nature Conservancy, and the Pascagoula River Audubon Center to carry out the three projects. The projects include the Coastal Stream Habitat Initiative, the Coastal Bird Stewardship Program, and the Mississippi Coastal Preserves Program.
The Coastal Stream Initiative is the largest of the projects, and will require all hands on deck. Trudy Fisher, the Director of the M.D.E.Q., says, "That identifies all non-streams across the three coastal counties and that project is not to go in and do any work on the actual streams, but is to go into the community, work with the supervisors, work with the mayors, work with the alderman, and work with the people." Rhodes Bayou is one of the main waterways involved in the project. The first step of this initiative is to go into the communities around these waterways to find out what needs to be done. Alex Littlejohn of the Nature Conservancy says, "Who better to work with than the communities themselves? They're going to tell you ‘Hey, these are the problems.’ This is what we face, and you've got to have them at the table. They were the ones mostly affected by the spill." McDonald thinks it's a fantastic idea, but a long time coming. He says, "I think they're going to reveal some of the same things we've been trying to reveal for the last six years." A major part of the Stream Initiative is also restoring natural habitats with the help of volunteers. The agencies say it can be as simple as removing invasive species, like popcorn trees, to help the diversity grow within the plant and animal populations. Three hundred and fifty six million dollars will be paid into the Gulf Fund over the next five years for conservation projects in the state of Mississippi.