[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 103 (Wednesday, May 29, 2013)]
[Pages 32237-32238]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-12608]



Office of the Secretary

[Docket No.: 130514469-3469-01]

Draft Initial Comprehensive Plan and Draft Programmatic 
Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: In accordance with the Resources and Ecosystems 
Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the 
Gulf States Act (RESTORE Act), the Secretary of Commerce, as Chair of 
the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council), announces the 
availability of a Draft Initial Comprehensive Plan (Draft Plan) to 
restore and protect the Gulf Coast region. Council Members also have 
compiled preliminary lists of ecosystem restoration projects that are 
``authorized but not yet commenced'' and the full Council is in the 
process of evaluating these lists; the Council announces the 
availability of these preliminary lists. Finally, the Council has 
drafted, and announces the availability of, a Draft Programmatic 
Environmental Assessment (Draft PEA) for the Draft Plan. These 
documents are available for public review and comment.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
on the Draft Plan and Draft PEA by June 24, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the Draft Plan, the preliminary 
lists of ``authorized but not yet commenced'' ecosystem restoration 
projects, and Draft PEA by either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via www.restorethegulf.gov.
     Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send a copy of your 
comments to Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, c/o U.S. 
Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW., Room 4077, 
Washington, DC 20230.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: The Council can be reached at 
[email protected].

    Background: In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused 
extensive damage to the Gulf Coast's natural resources, devastating the 
economies and communities that rely on it. In an effort to help the 
region rebuild in the wake of the spill, Congress passed and the 
President signed the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist 
Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 
2012 (``RESTORE Act''). Public Law 112-141, Sec. Sec.  1601-1608, 126 
Stat. 588 (Jul. 6, 2012). The RESTORE Act created the Gulf Coast 
Ecosystem Restoration Trust Fund (Trust Fund) and dedicates eighty 
percent of any civil and administrative penalties paid under the Clean 
Water Act, after the date of enactment, by parties responsible for the 
Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the Trust Fund for ecosystem 
restoration, economic recovery, and tourism promotion in the Gulf Coast 
region. The ultimate amount of administrative and civil penalties 
potentially available to the Trust Fund is currently unknown because 
Clean Water Act claims against several responsible parties are 
outstanding. On January 3, 2013, however, the United States announced 
that Transocean Deepwater Inc. and related entities agreed to pay $1 
billion in civil penalties for violating the Clean Water Act in 
relation to their conduct in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. That 
settlement was approved by the court in February, and Transocean paid 
the first installment of its civil penalties to the United States at 
the end of March. These funds are subject to the RESTORE Act.
    In addition to creating the Trust Fund, the RESTORE Act established 
the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council), which is 
chaired by the Secretary of Commerce and includes the Governors of 
Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, and the 
Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, the Army, Homeland 
Security, and the Interior, and the Administrator of the U.S. 
Environmental Protection Agency. Among other things, the Act requires 
the Council to publish an Initial Comprehensive Plan to restore and 
protect the Gulf Coast region after notice and an opportunity for 
public comment.
    This Draft Plan sets forth the Council's overarching goals for 
restoring and protecting the natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, 
marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, coastal wetlands, and economy of 
the Gulf Coast region. Additionally, the Plan: (1) incorporates the 
recommendations and findings of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration 
Task Force (Task Force) as set forth in the Gulf Coast Ecosystem 
Restoration Task Force Strategy (Strategy); (2) describes how Council-
Selected ecosystem restoration activities will be solicited, evaluated, 
and funded; (3) outlines the process for the development, review, and 
approval of State Expenditure Plans; and, (4) provides the Council's 
next steps. In addition, the Council as a whole is in the process of 
reviewing and evaluating preliminary lists submitted by individual 
Council Members in order to compile, as required by the RESTORE Act, 
``a list of any project or program authorized prior to the date of 
enactment of [the Act] but not yet commenced, the completion of which 
would further the purposes and goals of [the Act].''
    The Council has responsibility over the expenditure of sixty 
percent of the funds made available from the Trust Fund. The Council 
will administer thirty percent, plus fifty percent of the interest on 
Trust Fund monies, for ecosystem restoration and protection according 
to the Plan. The other thirty percent will be allocated to the Gulf 
States as described in the RESTORE Act

[[Page 32238]]

and spent according to individual State Expenditure Plans. The State 
Expenditure Plans must be consistent with the goals and objectives of 
the Comprehensive Plan and are subject to the Council's approval. 
Remaining RESTORE Act funds are not within Council responsibility.
    The Council is seeking public and tribal comment on all aspects of 
the Draft Plan. In particular, the Council seeks public and tribal 
comment on the following:
    (1) The Draft Plan includes restoration Priority Criteria 
established in the RESTORE Act and applicable to the Council's 
selection of projects and programs for at least the first three years 
after publication of the Initial Comprehensive Plan. The Council is 
considering further defining these criteria and developing additional 
criteria for consideration.
    a. Should the Council further define the Priority Criteria? If so, 
    b. Should the Council develop additional criteria for consideration 
now or in the future? If so, what should they be?
    (2) The ``Objectives'' section of the Draft Plan describes the 
broad types of activities the Council envisions funding in order to 
achieve its goals.
    a. Should the Council consider other Objectives at this juncture? 
If not, at what point, if any, should the Council consider additional 
Objectives? If so, what should they be?
    b. Similarly, should the Council eliminate any of the Objectives?
    c. How should the Council prioritize its restoration Objectives?
    (3) The Council is considering establishing or engaging advisory 
committees as may be necessary, such as a citizens' advisory committee 
and/or a science advisory committee, to provide input to the Council in 
carrying out its responsibilities under the RESTORE Act.
    a. Should the Council establish any advisory committees?
    b. If so, what type of advisory committees should the Council 
establish? How should the Council structure such advisory committees? 
What role should such advisory committees play?
    In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 
U.S.C. Sec. Sec.  4321-4335, and the Council on Environmental Quality's 
regulations implementing NEPA, 40 C.F.R. Parts 1500-1507, the Council 
has prepared a Draft PEA on the Draft Plan. The Council is also seeking 
public comment on all aspects of the Draft PEA in addition to all 
aspects of the Draft Plan and the preliminary list of ``authorized but 
not yet commenced'' ecosystem restoration projects compiled by Council 
    Document Availability: Copies of the Draft Plan, the preliminary 
list of ``authorized but not yet commenced'' projects and programs, and 
Draft PEA are available at the following office during regular business 
hours: Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW., Room 4077, 
Washington, DC 20230.
    Electronic versions of both documents can be viewed and downloaded 
at www.restorethegulf.gov.

    Legal Authority:  The statutory program authority for the Draft 
Initial Comprehensive Plan is found in subtitle F of the Moving 
Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (``MAP-21''), Pub. L. 
112-141, 126 Stat. 405 (Jul. 6, 2012).

    Dated: May 22, 2013.
Rebecca M. Blank,
Acting Secretary of Commerce, Chair, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration 
[FR Doc. 2013-12608 Filed 5-28-13; 8:45 am]