Coastal Wetland Restoration and the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Both the 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the 2010 BP oil spill have focused attention on the need to restore coastal wetland habitats along the Gulf of Mexico of the United States. As restoration is required by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, restoring coastal wetlands will be required as part of BP’s legal obligations. Although plans to restore the Mississippi River Delta are well on their way, the damages to the Gulf Coast wetlands caused by the Deepwater Horizon spill are still occurring and have yet to be fully assessed. At this critical time for wetland restoration in the Gulf, it is important to be clear about the ecological and economic challenges and issues that need to be addressed in restoring the Gulf Coast wetlands after this series of sequential disasters. This Article reviews the current state of knowledge on the ecological restoration of coastal wetlands and critically examines current approaches to restoration under Natural Resource Damage Assessments. The Article then discusses the key ecosystem services of coastal wetlands that we need to be concerned with in restoration and briefly explores examples of economic valuation of these services. It is clear that much more work is required in this critical area of ecological and economic analysis, given that restoring coastal wetlands along the Gulf is becoming a major policy focus.