The RESTORE Act established 47 eligible entities for assistance under the RESTORE-funded and Treasury-administered Direct Component Program. These entities include the state governments of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, as well as 23 Florida counties, and 20 Louisiana parishes, and are among the most climate-impacted communities in our nation.
The Nexus Between Climate Change and Eligible Purposes in the RESTORE Act
The RESTORE Act was passed in response to the economic and ecological risks posed by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and, as such, was not intended to address climate risks per se. However, nearly all of the eligible purposes for Direct Component funding set forth in the Act are related, directly or indirectly, to mitigating the key climate risks in the region.
Climate change in the region has manifested itself primarily in terms of changes in temperature and rainfall patterns and increases in the frequency and severity of storms. The increase in the frequency and severity of hurricanes, tropical storms, and extreme rainfall events has led to increased flooding; so-called “hundred-year floods” are no longer nearly as rare as the name suggests. Population growth and the attendant development pressures exacerbate these problems; stormwater systems have not kept pace with development, and the increase in impervious surfaces has led to a substantial increase in runoff. All of this, coupled with global sea level rise and regional land subsidence, has led to an increase in so-called “sunny-day” tidal flooding at high tide.
As a result, many eligible entities under the Act are using their Direct Component funds for the eligible purpose of “coastal flood protection and related infrastructure,” embarking a wide variety of projects to build up their defenses by shoring up levees and dunes or address underlying causes by increasing the capacity of stormwater systems and constructing retention ponds to capture runoff.
Other entities have focused on the eligible purposes of “improvements on or to state parks” or restoring and protecting “the natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, and coastal wetlands of the Gulf Coast Region.” Many state parks, beaches, wetlands, and other key ecosystems have been damaged by recent storms and/or by more gradual changes in the climate, exacerbated by development pressures.
Still others focus on eligible uses related to ports and other infrastructure, much of which has been damaged by storms or is threatened by sea level rise and subsidence, or on addressing threats to fisheries and wildlife, including climatological threats like ocean warming and acidification.
Even the eligible uses in the Act related to the promotion of tourism and workforce development are indirectly tied to mitigating climate risks. Communities in the region need to protect and preserve the beautiful beaches and state parks that draw visitors and support the region’s tourism economy. Many also wish to make their economies and energy sources more diversified and resilient in the face of a wide array of challenges, including climate risks.
Examples of RESTORE-Funded Direct Component Projects that Mitigate Climate Risks
Louisiana: Planning to Restore Calcasieu-Sabine Basin Marshes
The Problem: The Calcasieu-Sabine Basin in southwest Louisiana has experienced significant land loss as a result of altered hydrology by expansion of navigation channels, impoundment of marshes, subsidence, and sea level rise. These changes have increased marsh vulnerability and loss rates, and these processes are exacerbated by severe weather events, including tropical storms, hurricanes, and droughts. The Future Without Action model in Louisiana’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan predicts that Calcasieu-Sabine Basin marshes will continue to degrade and convert to open water at high rates without substantial restoration efforts.
RESTORE-funded Solution: This planning project intends to reduce the rate of land loss in the Calcasieu-Sabine Basin through restoration measures that reduce marsh vulnerability and restore degraded marsh by easing flood stress. These measures include marsh drainage improvements and sediment introduction for large-scale marsh creation and marsh nourishments.
RESTORE Investment: $28,679,742.68 for planning, engineering, and design. The state plans to eventually use their entire RESTORE Allocation ($260 million) to implement this project.
The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority project team is currently collecting data and setting up a modeling effort to optimize the layout and sizing of the marsh drainage, creation, and nourishment features. Once the optimal layout and sizing are determined, full-scale engineering and design of the project features will begin.
Pinellas County, Florida: Planning for Sea Level Rise
The Problem: Sea level rise and storm surge is anticipated to increasingly impact Pinellas County. Subject matter
experts anticipate sea levels will rise another 2 to 8.5 feet by 2100, posing a threat to coastal habitats, property, and critical infrastructure. This concern is heightened in Pinellas County given the County's geographic position as a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay.
RESTORE-funded Solution: The County pursued a detailed and technic assessment of anticipated conditions by
modeling impacts of sea level rise and storm surge. To better inform the community, the County developed a public-facing Geographic Information System (GIS) decision support tool to present various sea level rise (SLR) scenarios. Econometric models were created to estimate the cost benefits of different scenario-based outcomes and available options. The results of this assessment will facilitate effective decision-making, guide sustainable policies, and help prioritize efforts to ensure the long-term viability of the County's coastal economy, infrastructure, and quality of life.
RESTORE Investment: $300,000
Image Credit: Pinellas County Public Works Stormwater Division
Monroe County, Florida: Restoration of Coral Reefs in the Florida Keys
The Problem: The corals that make up Florida’s Coral Reef have been in decline throughout the Caribbean since the 1980’s and significant natural rebounds have not been observed. Stony coral populations have declined, in part, as a result of storm damage, disease, and ocean warming and acidification. If left unchecked, this reef degradation will continue to have a negative impact on biodiversity and the health of fish, turtles, and other marine life, including endangered species, living on or near the reefs. The degradation of the reef also will reduce scuba and snorkel-related tourism and further increase Monroe County’s susceptibility to storms, since reefs play an important role in breaking the waves associated with tropical storms.
RESTORE-funded Solution: Grow staghorn and boulder corals in nurseries and transplant roughly 25,000 corals offshore to kickstart self-perpetuating reefs between Key Largo and Key West. Drawing on best practices from prior research, this project focuses on increasing the genetic diversity of the coral population to help jump-start natural recovery through reproduction.
RESTORE Funds: $578,308.50
Matching funds: The Nature Conservancy contributed $40,000 to this project. Subrecipients Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Coral Restoration Foundation, and the Mote Marine Laboratory are providing $200,000 in in-kind services.
Images of a) coral nursery and b) outplanted corals are provided by Mote Marine Lab.