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Saturday, Oct 25, 2014
Editorials

Coming to the aid of the Gulf of Mexico

Published:

State and federal officials merit credit for using more than $100 million in settlement money from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to perform restoration work on the Gulf of Mexico.

An explosion on the oil-drilling rig in April 2010 killed 11 men and caused the largest oil spill in U.S. history. An estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf before the leak was finally capped 87 days later. It killed scores of fish, birds, turtles and mammals, and its impact on the marine ecosystem is still being calculated.

University of South Florida researchers documented massive deep-sea plumes of oil and dispersants that settled on the Gulf floor and that may have long-term impacts.

So using the money to aid the Gulf of Mexico, which had been much abused prior to the spill, is an appropriate expense.

Of particular note is a $3 million grant that will allow state and federal scientists to evaluate the status of Florida’s offshore reef communities, which include important commercial and recreational species such as red snapper.

As the Ocean Conservancy points out, the data the research will produce will help officials better manage offshore fisheries, helping the recreational and commercial fishing industries.

Another project will help Florida’s sea turtles by providing $1.5 million to retrofit beachfront lights at important nesting habitats in the Panhandle.

Beachfront lights cause the deaths of countless baby turtles, which are attracted to moonlight reflecting on the water.

But lights from developments can lead them to parking lots, roads and destruction. The project will fund the use of more subdued or redirected lighting, which should save turtles without creating costs for landowners.

These are necessary and practical projects that will make good use of the settlement money while aiding the Gulf of Mexico, an invaluable natural and economic resource.

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