Updates to Florida ESI Data Funded Through Deepwater Horizon Damage Assessment
NOV. 21, 2022 – The Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster took place more than a dozen years ago, beginning on April 20, 2010, but the recovery process continues to this day.
The Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustee Council is a group of federal agencies and state governments that are authorized by the Oil Pollution Act to act as natural resource trustees. After the spill, the trustees came together to study the effects of the oil spill and continue to restore the Gulf of Mexico to the condition it would have been in if the spill had not happened.
Earlier this month the Florida Trustee Implementation Group approved a plan to produce updated Environmental Sensitivity Index maps and datasets for the Florida Gulf Coast region. This effort will produce updated ESI datasets for the Gulf of Mexico-facing regions of Florida (Panhandle, Northwest Peninsula, Southwest Peninsula, and South Florida), along with an online portal to access the data.
The updated data will include more accurate and updated coastal data that accounts for restoration work in the region and any changes wrought by development, natural disasters, or other processes. The updated data will assist with future restoration work, inform damage assessments, and allow for faster and better-informed responses to oil spills and natural disasters.
Although Environmental Sensitivity Index datasets are regularly consulted for damage assessment planning and sampling activities, as well as for restoration site selection and monitoring, this is the first time the funds have been used to update the index. This may serve as a model for future work.
Index data for Florida is currently available through the OR&R website and through the state of Florida’s website, where they have updated additional data in recent years beyond the NOAA maps.