Disaster and Recovery Initiatives – Gulf of Mexico

Emergency Response to Hurricanes and Deepwater Horizon

Caminada Phase II wetlands_Weeks Marine 2015
Caminada Headlands, 
Phase II. Photo courtesy of Weeks Marine.

Erosion of the Nation’s beaches, dunes, barrier islands, and coastal wetlands is a serious challenge that affects energy, defense, and public infrastructure as well as tourism which is important to state and local economies. Following the extensive damage resulting from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), Hurricanes Gustav and Ike (2008) and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (2010) there has been increased national interest and dedicated funding along the Gulf Coast in coastal restoration and management efforts. Future Gulf projects are planned out to 50 years as the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) contribution to restoration budgets increases in 2017. These multiple funding streams will ensure that the Marine Minerals Program in the Gulf of Mexico Region will be a significant contributor to ongoing and proposed coastal restoration projects through the use of OCS sand resources for many years to come.

Two reports from the U.S. Geological Survey, (https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70169110 and http://pubs.usgs.gov/sim/3164/) published in 2016 and 2011, respectively, indicate that coastal Louisiana has undergone a net change in land area of about -1,883 square miles (mi2) from 1932 to 2010. This net change in land area amounts to a decrease of about 25 percent of the 1932 land area. Persistent losses account for 95 percent of this land area decrease; the remainder are areas that have converted to water but have not yet exhibited the persistence necessary to be classified as "loss." Trend analyses from 1985 to 2010 show a wetland loss rate of 16.57 square miles per year. If this loss were to occur at a constant rate, it would equate to Louisiana losing

By replenishing beaches and restoring wetlands with sediment from the OCS, the Nation’s coastlines receive crucial resources for maintaining a healthy coastal ecosystem. Access to and identification of potential OCS sand, gravel and other mineral resources is critical for the long- term success and cost- effectiveness of many shore protection, beach nourishment, and coastal ecosystem restoration projects along the Gulf of Mexico. However, BOEM’s involvement goes beyond conveying the rights to OCS minerals. In order to be ready to respond to emergency situations, the bureau’s Gulf of Mexico Region has forged relationships with a wide range of stakeholders including federal, state and local environmental agencies; geologists; coastal managers; public works departments; the business and tourism communities; the fisheries community and ordinary citizens. These partnerships aid in reaching a new level of coastal resilience.

This image, taken in 2001, shows narrow sandy beaches and adjacent overwash sandflats, low vegetated dunes, and backbarrier marshes
This image, taken in 2001, shows narrow sandy beaches
and adjacent overwash sandflats, 
low vegetated dunes, and backbarrier marshes broken
by ponds and channels. 
Credit: USGS

BOEM’s Gulf of Mexico’s MMP has an ongoing dialogue with the five Gulf states and a wide range of stakeholders and partners including sand management working groups and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. Close collaboration with our federal partners in Washington, D.C. and in their Gulf coast offices is key to successful outcomes. Federal agency partners include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, and three other Department of the Interior bureaus–the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Park Service (NPS).

BOEM’s goal is to contribute to the Nation’s environmental, economic and recreational well-being as well as national security through the completion of safe, sustainable projects. Ongoing environmental and mineral resource research will help speed future responses and decrease uncertainty by knowing where suitable OCS sand and other mineral resources are located when they are needed in the future.

 Hurricane Katrina moves through  the Gulf of Mexico in late August, 2005.
Hurricane Katrina moves through 
the Gulf of Mexico in late August, 2005.
NASA image
 This image shows the same location on August 31, 2005, two days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Louisiana and Mississippi coastline. Storm surge and large waves from Hurricane Katrina submerged the islands, stripped sand from the beaches, and eroded large sections of the marsh. Credit: USGS
This image shows the same location on August 31, 2005,
two days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall
on the Louisiana and Mississippi coastline. 
Storm surge and large waves from Hurricane Katrina
submerged the islands, stripped sand from the
beaches, and eroded large sections of the marsh.
Credit: USGS

Hurricane Response

Deepwater Horizon – BOEM Response

Priorities and Challenges for the Future

Because coastal systems are constantly changing, BOEM’s priority is to be dynamic and ready to meet the Nation’s coastal sand resource needs. Our planning depends on consultations with federal and state partners, academia, professional groups and a diverse private sector to assess needs and concerns; and conducting environmental research and analyses to make informed decisions. BOEM is not only managing offshore sand for restoration projects but to protect it from conflicts with other OCS activities, such as pipelines from offshore oil and gas operations.

Looking ahead, BOEM’s Gulf of Mexico regional office is working with the five Gulf Coast states to pursue funding similar to that provided to Atlantic states after Sandy. The purpose is to develop and maintain a Gulf of Mexico sand resources inventory/data base to support long- term restoration planning. Nationally, BOEM is working with the USACE to establish a more formal mechanism to plan and coordinate long term. Through enhanced coordination with Interior bureaus, we are working to leverage our expertise and other resources with theirs. BOEM’s goal is to help communities make the best decisions to strengthen coastal resilience in meaningful, sustainable ways.