Bentley on state budget, Alabama Nature Conservancy and new round of BP recovery funding

Apr 21, 2015

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley

Governor Robert Bentley says the state faces a “real crisis” with its budget. Bentley is now taking his fight to fill the state’s coffers to the streets.

The governor is continuing his tour of speaking engagements to rally support for his proposed $541 million tax proposal. He spoke at Guntersville State Park yesterday.

The Department of Conservation is working on a contingency plan to close 15 of 22 state parks because of anticipated budget cuts. He says it will be lawmakers who will close state parks and axe other state services if they fail to approve new revenue for the budget.

The governor says he has proposed a solution to prevent the cuts.

In addition to state parks, Bentley said mental health treatment, services for children, state troopers and "everything that is funded by the General Fund" will face cuts.

This week marks the five year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The 200 million gallons of oil that leaked into the Gulf caused massive environmental impacts in Alabama and across the Gulf Coast.

Judy Hanar is the Director of the Marine and Freshwater Program at Alabama’s Nature Conservancy. She says the Deepwater Horizon spill, surprisingly, had some benefits as well.

“One of the biggest things has been the partnership between the federal agencies, the state, all of the local nonprofits, the local government really coming together where we link these projects that have great environmental benefit but they also benefit the communities and the economy of the area.”

The Nature Conservancy is involved with over a hundred environmental restoration projects on the Gulf Coast, with funding of over $1.1 billion. Around 12% of that funding has gone toward restoring Alabama’s coast, with a substantial amount allocated toward building a lodge and convention center at Gulf State Park.

The trustees overseeing $1 billion provided by BP for recovery from the 2010 oil spill have proposed another 10 projects totaling $134 million. Nearly $700 million has been spent in three previous rounds of funding.

Four of these projects would get a total of $116.5 million. That includes a $45 million investment to protect sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and $30 million to restore shorelines and reefs in four Mississippi bays.

Alabama will see a $10 million project to create two living shorelines, promoting marsh growth and preventing erosion on the coastline near Bayou la Batre and Coden.

Another half million dollars has been allocated to make improvements to the trail system at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.