Building Gulf Coast Resilience: Opportunities After Deepwater Horizon

August 2, 2018

Download Main Report

Download Case Study:
Sandy Recovery

Download Case Study: 
California WaterFix

Download Case Study:
Glen Canyon Adaptive Management

Download Appendices

This Georgetown Climate Center report presents recommendations for enhancing Gulf Coast resilience as state and federal agencies implement projects to restore ecosystems affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Over 134 million gallons of crude oil was released into the Gulf of Mexico affecting 1,300 miles of coastline from Texas to Florida. Over the next 15 years, more than $20 billion will flow to the Gulf Coast region for projects to restore ecosystems and economies affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. And the success of this grand experiment in coastal restoration will have importance for not only the Gulf Coast region, but also the nation as a whole. The Gulf economy contributes $234 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product and the region is home to biologically and economically important habitats and fisheries. The region has a unique opportunity to both restore spill-affected ecosystems and enhance community resilience to the impacts of climate change. However, implementing the ambitious and innovative portfolio of projects will require improved coordination among state and federal agencies and expedited processes for reviewing and permitting projects. 

In Building Gulf Coast Resilience: Opportunities After Deepwater Horizon, the Georgetown Climate Center draws lessons from three case studies of other large-scale infrastructure projects where state and federal agencies have overcome challenges and developed innovative approaches to coordination, permitting and environmental review.

  • Hurricane Sandy Recovery Coordinating Teams — This case study explores coordinating teams that were established by federal agencies after Hurricane Sandy to improve and expedite disaster-recovery projects. It also explores how the coordinating teams helped to improve the design of, and expedite environmental review and permitting of, innovative recovery projects developed through the Rebuild by Design competition. To illustrate these lessons, the case study uses the example of the Living Breakwaters project, where nature-based approaches will be used to reduce flood risks for vulnerable communities in Staten Island, New York.
  • California WaterFix — The State of California is working to construct twin tunnels to improve water delivery from and reduce environmental impacts to the ecologically sensitive Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. This case study explores how early and frequent consultations among state and federal agencies helped the project designers address regulatory challenges and expedite environmental review. It also illustrates how environmental review was used to explore the project’s ability to enhance the region’s resilience to climate impacts, like increasing drought.
  • Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program  This case study explores the Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan developed to inform operations and management of the Glen Canyon Dam. It describes how an adaptive management approach is helping to minimize conflicts among the diverse interests affected by dam operations, including power generation, water supply and allocations, habitats and species in the Colorado River ecosystem, recreational users, and cultural and archaeological sites important to Native American Tribes in the region.

Collectively, this report and case studies provide lessons that can be used to inform restoration efforts in the Gulf Coast states. State and federal agencies can learn from the different approaches that were used in other large-scale projects to improve coordination, streamline administrative processes, and account for climate impacts in the design and management of restoration projects.

More detailed summaries of the funding sources supporting Gulf Coast restoration efforts, the laws and policies that will govern implementation of restoration projects, and the actions that states are taking to pursue restoration are included in Appendices accompanying this report.

The Georgetown Climate Center is grateful for generous support from the Walton Family Foundation and the other funders that make our work possible.