UPDATE on RESTORE B1 RFGA - Gulf of Mexico Alliance

Image source - planetsave.com

Image source - planetsave.com

RESTORE Council - In October, the Council concluded a public comment period on their Draft Comprehensive Plan Update. Public meeting summaries are now available. Read RESTORE Council Chair USDA Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack's October 20th blog post on a healthy Gulf. Information on this and other Council activity is on their website RestoreTheGulf.gov.

IN TEXAS - THE REQUEST FOR GRANT APPLICATIONS (RFGA) FOR THE RESTORE DIRECT COMPONENT (BUCKET 1) GRANT FUNDS ARE STILL BEING REVIEWED. CHECK WWW.RESTORETHETEXASCOAST.ORG REGULARLY FOR THE ANTICIPATED RELEASE OF SELECTED PROJECTS.

Link to Restoration Page

UPDATE ON STATUS: RESTORE Direct Component (Bucket 1) RFGA

The Bucket 1 Review Team has submitted its evaluations of the more than 200 project applications, totaling approximately $3.4 billion, received in response to the RFGA for the RESTORE Direct Component (Bucket 1) grant funds. As a reminder, the Bucket 1 Review Team consisted of representatives from several state agencies and the Governor’s Office. Commissioner Baker is in the process of reviewing those completed evaluations and the applications to identify potential projects for funding.

Following Baker’s review, and in collaboration with the Governor, a draft project list will be selected for inclusion in the State’s Multi-Year Implementation Plan (MIP). Under the RESTORE Act this plan is required to secure project funding and will be posted for public comment prior to submission to U.S. Treasury.

Please continue to visit this website for information on when the draft MIP, with the project list, will be posted in both the Texas Register and this website for public comment. Following the 45-day comment period, the finalized MIP will be submitted to the U.S. Treasury for acceptance.

We appreciate the overwhelming interest in the RESTORE Act program and look forward to presenting an MIP to the public that maximizes the benefit of these funds to the environment and economy of the Texas coast.

Texas Trustee Implementation Group Calls for Restoration Project Proposals

The Texas Trustee Implementation Group (Texas TIG) is calling for new or revised restoration proposals by August 31, 2016 in preparation for the next phase of Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) restoration planning.

Restoration funds allocated to the Texas TIG must be used for five specific restoration types. Early Restoration projects are already funding bird and sea turtle restoration types. Therefore, the Texas TIG is prioritizing current restoration planning efforts on restoration types that were not addressed previously:

1) restore and conserve wetland, coastal, and nearshore habitats;
2) restore water quality through nutrient reduction (nonpoint source); and
3) replenish and protect oysters.

The Texas TIG will also consider projects for engineering and design that focus on the three restoration types mentioned above. The focus will be on these restoration categories, however the Texas TIG will continue to consider any important opportunities for additional restoration and protection of avian resources and sea turtles. All projects will be evaluated using the criteria established in the NRDA regulations (15 CFR 990.54).

Approximately $47.6 million is currently available for restoration project funding in Texas this year. In addition, over the next 15 years, the Texas TIG will receive approximately $124.8 million in additional restoration funding. The current restoration planning effort may utilize all or part of these funds. The Texas TIG may propose both discrete restoration projects as well as one or more programmatic restoration efforts. Each of the projects and programmatic efforts may require multiple years to complete and they may be funded in part by restoration funds received in the future.

Please submit your proposal by August 31, 2016 to be considered by the Texas TIG for the draft restoration plan expected to be released in spring 2017. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please contact TXDWHNRDA@tpwd.texas.gov.

 

Past week, over $50 million in environmental grant applications in Greater Houston Region

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 April 25, 2016
Contact: Deborah January-Bevers
deborah@houstonwilderness.org
(713) 524-7330 x 205

Past week, over $50 million in environmental grant applications in Greater Houston Region were submitted to TCEQ to fund projects that will reduce flooding and improve habitat, quality of life and economic development

HOUSTON, TX, April 20, 2016 – This past week over $50 million in grant proposals benefiting the eight-county Greater Houston Region were submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to be considered for funding under the RESTORE Act, part of the gulf oil spill recovery plan. The total amount available for funding under TCEQ’s current request for RESTORE applications is $56 million (www.restorethetexascoast.org).

 As part of a two-year effort to create the first-ever 8-county Gulf-Houston Regional Conservation Plan (Gulf-Houston RCP), over 50 partners collaborated together to submit the 14 respective projects, ranging in amounts from $750,000 to over $12 million. These projects allow for hundreds of acres in restored prairies, riparian corridors along 14 creeks and bayous, coastal wetlands, reforestation and nature-based pedestrian trails (see attached Joint Letter of Support from the Gulf-Houston RCP Steering Committee and map of the project locations). 

The past week provided plenty of evidence of why these projects are critical to the Greater Houston Region. Upstream prairies and coastal wetlands significantly help prevent flooding of homes and provide hurricane storm surge protection. One acre of prairie land can absorb 9 inches of rainfall per hour before runoff occurs, and will intercept as much as 53 tons of water during a 1-inch per hour rain event. Large-scale tree planting also absorbs tons of water and significantly cleans the air and water in our region.

 The Gulf-Houston RCP (www.gulfhoustonrcp.org) collectively identifies our region’s most pressing environmental needs with projects organized into five (5) key initiatives.

  1. Bayou Greenways Initiative 
  2. Headwaters to Baywaters Initiative 
  3. Prairie Conservation Initiative 
  4. Galveston Bay Habitat Acquisition & Easements Initiative  
  5. Galveston Bay Oyster Reefs & Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative 

 

In addition to the flood control, and water/air quality benefits, the funding and implementation of projects in the Gulf-Houston Regional Conservation Plan will sustain and improve the ecological infrastructure of the Gulf-Houston region and provide the backbone for sustainable growth and economic development as Greater Houston becomes the 3rd largest City in America and the Texas Gulf Coast continues to provide major ports for the United States.

RESTORE Act Now Accepting Proposals Through Friday, April 15, 2016.

Applications for Texas projects for grant funding under the Direct Component (Bucket 1) of the federal RESTORE Act are now being accepted through the Restore The Texas Coast website until 5:00 pm on Friday, April 15, 2016.

An instructional video with step by step instructions on completing the entire application package (basic application, addendum with environmental checklist and budget) will be posted on the Restore The Texas Coast website on Tuesday, January 19, 2016.

Detailed information on the request for projects can be found in the Request for Grant Application (https://www.restorethetexascoast.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/RFGA-Bucket-1-01-17-15.pdf). The RFGA provides information on the application process, as well as eligibility requirements. See more at https://www.restorethetexascoast.org/.

The total amount available for funding under this request for applications is approximately $56 million. Direct Component grants must support projects that: restore and protect natural habitats; mitigate damage to fish and wildlife; improve state parks in coastal areas; protect against coastal floods; promote tourism and/or consumption of Gulf Coast seafood; or develop the workforce and create jobs in the coastal region.

The review and selection process is competitive and includes elements from other state and federal grant programs. The scoring criteria is based on the Priorities Document.

An initial list of selected projects will be posted for a 45-day public comment period and the final list of selected projects will be included in the Multi-year Implementation Plan required by U.S. Treasury to secure grant funds.

In addition, application workshops will be held in Houston, Corpus Christi and Brownsville. 

Over the next three months, Houston Wilderness will provide pertinent follow-up information via email, collaborative meetings and at http://houstonwilderness.org/gulf-restoration-funds/ on RESTORE grant funding and its relationship to the Gulf-Houston Regional Conservation Plan (seewww.gulfhoustonrcp.org). Please also see www.gulfhoustonrcp.org for information on the 5 key initiatives and respective environmental/conservation projects in the 8-county Gulf-Houston Region. 

Congress passed the budget deal, and President Obama signed it; it’s official: these charitable tax breaks are permanent.

In a strong bipartisan action, the Senate voted 65-33 on December 18th to pass the bill that will make the tax incentive for conservation easement donations permanent. This follows yesterday’s 318-109 vote in the House. This legislation has been a priority for the Land Trust Alliance for a decade, and it represents a huge win for conservation, for landowners and for the land trust community. Once signed into law the incentive will be applied retroactively to start Jan. 1, 2015.

Today’s vote also reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund for three years and increased its funding from $306 million last year to $450 million this year.

The enhanced incentives have helped farmers, ranchers and other modest-income landowners increase the pace of land conservation. With the enhancements, land and easement donations can wipe out up to 50% of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (100% for farmers) and any unused portion can be carried forward and applied against AGI for up to 15 years. (Current law allows for a 30% of AGI deduction limit and a five-year carryforward.) The proposed deal includes a new provision that would permit Alaska Native Corporations to deduct donations of conservation easements up to 100% of taxable income.

The Land Trust Alliance has been seeking permanency for this incentive for a decade, and it will have a major impact on future conservation, Shay says. There may not be time to ink conservation deals by year-end but permanency would mean that land trusts can reach out to potential conservationists to start the donation conversation, knowing the tax breaks are in place—a huge benefit. 

Thank you to all who reached out to legislators to educate them about both the importance of this incentive and the critical role that land trusts play in communities across the country. And thank you to all those on Capitol Hill who are champions of conservation and this legislation. 

RESTORE Council Announces Funded Priorities List

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council has released a draft initial Funded Priorities List. TCEQ Commissioner Toby Baker is the Texas appointee to the Council.

This draft FPL, approximately $140 million in restoration activities, includes several projects in Texas. This FPL will be funded from the settlement with Transocean.

The Council will host a series of public meetings across the Gulf Coast to seek comments from the public. The meeting in Texas will be held on Thursday, August 20, in Corpus Christi. It will begin at 6:00 p.m. on the campus of Texas A&M University/Corpus Christi in the Center’s Lonestar Ballroom.

For additional information on the draft FPL, as well as meeting details, visit the Council’s website atwww.RestoreTheGulf.gov.  Public comments can also be sent to that website address.

Announced on July 2nd, 2015: 

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"U.S. And 5 Gulf States Reach Historic Settlement with BP to Resolve Civil Lawsuit over Deepwater Horizon/ Macondo Well Oil Spill

The United States and the five Gulf states have announced a settlement to resolve civil claims against BP arising from the April 20, 2010 Macondo well blowout and the massive oil spill that followed in the Gulf of Mexico. This global settlement resolves the governments’ civil claims under the Clean Water Act and natural resources damage claims under the Oil Pollution Act, as well as remaining economic damage claims of the five Gulf states and local governments. Taken together this global resolution of civil claims is worth more than $20 billion, and is the largest such settlement with a single entity in the Department’s history.

The United States has lodged in U.S. District Court a proposed, federal-and-state Consent Decree, in which BP will pay a Clean Water Act penalty of $5.5 billion (plus interest), $8.1 billion in natural resource damages (this includes $1 billion BP already committed to pay for early restoration), up to an additional $700 million (some of which is in the form of accrued interest) to address injuries to natural resources that are presently unknown but may come to light in the future and adaptive management, and $600 million for other claims, including claims under the False Claims Act, royalties, and reimbursement of natural resource damage assessment costs and other expenses due to this incident.

http://www.justice.gov/enrd/deepwater-horizon

Annual Luncheon Honors Beth Robertson, Cullen Geiselman and Get Outdoors Houston

Houston Wilderness feted dynamic mother-daughter duo Beth Robertson and Cullen Geiselman at its annual luncheon on Thursday, February 26th, 2015 at River Oaks Country Club with its Wild Life Award, an annual dedication by Houston Wilderness to a person or organization that has had a deep impact on advancing the environmental assets of the region. Master of Ceremonies Dr. Andrew Sansom, Executive Director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment and Luncheon Co-Chairs Kyle and John Kirksey, Shawn and Bill Jackson, and John Kirksey, Jr. presided over an enthusiastic crowd of over 400 friends, family and ardent admirers.

The Wild Life Awardees with the Luncheon Chairs

The Wild Life Awardees with the Luncheon Chairs

Beth Robertson and Cullen Geiselman

Beth Robertson and Cullen Geiselman

Texas Parks and Wildlife Director Carter Smith shared his personal memory of “Beth with her love of people and place and Cullen with her deep-seated inquisitiveness… you could just watch her Mom out of the corner of her eye take great pride in who her daughter was, is and would become.“ When accepting their award, Beth commented on the myriad of environmental organizations that she helped to found over the last forty years and the almost embarrassing amount of ecological riches in our region.  But she concluded “my most significant contribution to conservation was creating my wonderful daughter, Cullen, who has accomplished so much and will continue to contribute even more than I ever have.”  

The 15-member Get Out Here Houston Steering Committee was recognized for its collaborative efforts in creating the Get Out Here Houston website and iPhone App – www.getoutherehouston.org. Steering Committee Chairman, Sanford Criner, noted that “Houston is far from being a concrete jungle. The Get Out Here Houston website and iPhone App provide a one-stop shop to discover all the amazing outdoor amenities and activities available in the Greater Houston Region. This collaborative of nonprofit and business leaders came together to produce the website and iPhone App and now it’s time to spread the word far and wide!

The Get Outdoors Houston Steering Committee

The Get Outdoors Houston Steering Committee



Houston Wilderness Co-Signs Open Letter to Texas Legislature on TPWD Funding

The open letter, which has 35 co-signees from Houston-area conservation organizations, requests that the proceeds from sporting goods taxes be fully allocated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The sporting goods tax was originally implemented in 1993 to support TPWD, but the Department has only received about a third of the revenues from this tax. This is an especially important issue in the context of rapid population growth in the region and the difficulty for TPWD in providing, protecting and maintaining natural areas for recreation and conservation.

Read the full letter here

Houston Wilderness participates in Roundtable Discussion

Houston Wilderness was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion on Ecosystem Services on the website "The Nature of Cities" in which ten contributors responded to the prompt: Many believe that better information on the monetary value of ecosystem services is critical for getting cities to adopt more green infrastructure solutions to issues such as storm water management, heat island, storm surge, etc. True? What are the key knowledge gaps for convincing cities to invest in ecosystems services?

Click here to read the responses and join the discussion!

NFWF Announces $8.8 Million for Gulf Restoration Projects in Texas

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $8.8 million for five Texas projects that address high priority conservation needs. The projects, developed in consultation with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas General Land Office and federal resource agencies, are designed to remedy harm or reduce the risk of future harm to natural resources that were affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Read more here

Texas Water Development Board Approves Standards Prioritizing Projects

Austin (December 6, 2013) - Last month, when Texas voters approved an amendment to the state constitution creating a $2 billion fund for water projects, the first question on many stakeholders' minds was "How will these projects be prioritized?" On December 5, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) approved the uniform standards the regional water planning groups developed in accordance with House Bill 4 from the last legislative session. See full article here

House and Senate Bills outline dramatically different funding levels for conservation

Funding for environmental and conservation work is currently at the forefront of the budget battle raging in Congress. The United States House and Senate have strikingly different Environment and Interior Appropriations bills that will be difficult to reconcile.

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The House Environment and Interior Appropriations Bill would eliminate all funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which uses revenues from offshore drilling to buy natural areas for public enjoyment. LWCF is the source of funding for the Outdoor Recreation Grants and Urban Outdoor Recreation Grants awarded by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Texas has received over $478 million in LWCF funds over the past four decades, with a large portion going to the Greater Houston Region.

This bill would also end appropriations for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), which provides grants for wetland acquisition and restoration through the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, and institute deep cuts to categorical grants, which assist states in enforcing environmental regulation.

Two EPA programs, the State Revolving Funds (SRF) that finance projects to ensure safe, drinkable water, would also see dramatic reductions under the House Bill:

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 If the House and Senate are unable to compromise on a new bill and instead pass a “continuing resolution” to maintain funding at 2013 levels, the EPA would still be subject to automatic cuts due to sequestration.

While the US faces a serious budget crisis, abandoning investment providing clean air, water, and functional ecosystems will have devastating impacts on our future prosperity and wellbeing, and effectively it is imperative that the House Environment and Interior Appropriations Bill does not serve as the basis for how we fund vital environmental programs. 

Since Texas will be severely affected by the proposed cuts in the House, we urge the environmental/conservation community to reach out to regional congressional members and let them know about the negative regional impacts of the proposed budget cuts. 

Read more about the dangers of this bill to conservation funding from Ducks Unlimited.

See the bills for yourself here:

Draft of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill

Draft of the Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill

Check out this list of 20 programs cut by the House Bill.