Based on recommendations from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, President Barack Obama has endorsed the creation of a special fund to assist with long-term recovery efforts — including destination marketing — on the Gulf Coast, the White House announced last week.
Part of an aggressive Gulf restoration plan outlined by Mabus, the Gulf Coast Recovery Fund would use civil penalties obtained from parties responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to fund recovery projects in Louisiana and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast.
"I am honored to have been asked by the president to put together this plan," Mabus said in a statement. "The plan is the result of listening to the people of the Gulf Coast. It balances the needs of the people, the environment and the economic livelihood of the region."
To manage and distribute recovery funds, Mabus has recommended the creation of a Gulf Coast Recovery Council that would include representatives from the Gulf states and federally recognized Gulf tribes. Because Congress must first approve the council's formation, however, the president has announced plans to create by executive order a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force to coordinate restoration projects in the interim.
"President Obama has said many times that our commitment to the families and environment in the Gulf extends far beyond capping the well," said Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, who will serve as chair of the task force. "We're sending that message loud and clear today: Our work is not complete until the people and the environment they rely on are on the path to restoration and recovery."
As part of the Mabus plan, the Obama Administration has recommended that the Gulf Coast Recovery Fund pay for a media campaign to help restore public confidence in the Gulf's seafood industry and to promote tourism in the region.
"We are gratified that Secretary Mabus has heard the travel community and recognizes the critical need for continuing funding for marketing travel and tourism to the Gulf region and greater transparency in how the funds are distributed," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. "We also appreciate his acknowledgement of continuing perception problems for the region and his recommendation that funding guidelines should be structured to mitigate the long-term impacts on travel and tourism. Secretary Mabus' recommendation that the Administration should lead efforts to develop a coordinated plan for further tourism promotion that responsible parties should fund is also welcome."
Said President Obama, "We recognize that the recovery effort will take new thinking, cooperation and creativity. But, most of all, it will take time. In the days ahead, we will stand with the people of the Gulf to help restore, rehabilitate and revitalize the region. And, together, we will finish the job."