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U.S. outlines gulf restoration plans

Dec. 6, 2011 at 7:28 AM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- An effort to restore U.S. Gulf Coast river basins after the Deepwater Horizon tragedy comes with a 1,100 percent increase in funding, a U.S. official said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its Gulf of Mexico initiative to restore coastal communities affected by last year's oil spill represents a 1,100 percent increase in financial assistance for watersheds in the region.

"A healthy water supply is not only vital for the people of the gulf but also for the estuaries, fisheries and wildlife that are the foundation of the local economy," U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Harris Sherman said in a statement.

Oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico for several months beginning in April 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caught fire and sank. Fishing lanes were closed and beaches and wetlands were soiled by crude oil.

A task force for land restoration aims to stop losses of critical wetlands, sand barriers and beaches along the southern U.S. coast. Other measures outlined include reductions in excess nutrient flow into watersheds and coordination between federal, state and local officials to enhance the quality of life for coastal residents.

The U.S. government estimates there are about 4.2 million acres of land in the gulf region. Task force recommendations come with $50 million in assistance from the Agriculture Department.

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