Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ – General

When and how was the Program created?

In July 2012, the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act; Section 16 of Public Law 112-141) was signed into law. In section 1604 of the RESTORE Act, NOAA is authorized, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to establish and administer a ‘Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science, Observation, Monitoring, and Technology Program’ (now commonly known as the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program).

What is the mission of the Program?

The mission of the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program, as directed in the RESTORE Act, is to carry out research, observation, and monitoring to support, to the maximum extent practicable, the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, fish stocks, fish habitat, and the recreational, commercial, and charter-fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

What are the guiding principles for the Program?

The NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program is guided by the following principles:

Program Approach

  • Be consistent with enabling legislation and transparent in execution;
  • Address key research priorities, with emphasis on long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, including its fish stocks, fishing industries, wildlife, and habitat;
  • Give priority to integrated, long-term projects that build upon past, current, and future science programs and address ecosystem information needs in the Gulf of Mexico;
  • Be sufficiently flexible to adapt to new scientific findings and to evolve with resources allocated through the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund;
  • Be scalable and modular, to the extent possible, so the program can be adapted to the available funding and reflect changing needs;
  • Avoid duplication with federal, state, academic, and non-governmental organization (NGO) activities or Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) science efforts;
  • Leverage existing partnerships established among federal, state, academic, and NGO activities and develop new partnerships as appropriate;
  • Limit investment in infrastructure with long-term operation and maintenance requirements given anticipated sunset of funding;
  • Leverage investments by ensuring that all data collected during this program are openly and timely available as a condition of receiving grants or contracts;
  • Make results from the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program available to support timely decision-making by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, and other groups;
  • Provide for rapid and effective scientific response to future catastrophic events including hurricanes, oil spills, and other natural and man-made extreme events.

Program Scope

  • Consider the full geographic scope of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem;
  • Integrate monitoring and research within a management and policy framework, focusing on understanding ecosystem processes and the factors that drive such processes, not just patterns of species and habitat abundance and distribution;
  • Include socio-economic, as well as natural sciences;
  • Include cultural and traditional knowledge;
  • Ensure monitoring of key ecosystem components to understand effectiveness of restoration and ecosystem responses;
  • Ensure strongest focus on highest priority needs (“must do’s”) and synthesis of information into policy-relevant and usable summaries;
  • Consider technology development as a means to meet program goals;
  • Recognize that, while the research, monitoring, and technology development conducted under this program will be of value to National Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) activities, the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program is not intended to fund such restoration activities or scientific studies solely in support of such restoration activities.

What is the Program’s goal?

The goal of the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program is to support the science and coordination necessary for better understanding and management of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, leading to:

  • healthy, diverse, sustainable, and resilient estuarine, coastal and marine habitats and living resources (including wildlife and fisheries); and
  • resilient and adaptive coastal communities.

Where does funding for the Program come from?

The RESTORE Act which authorized the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program also established a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund to provide funding to the Program and the other activities authorized in the Act. The principal in the Trust Fund is comprised of 80% of all administrative and civil penalties for Clean Water Act violations paid by parties responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill after the passage of the RESTORE Act. The NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program will receive 2.5% of this principal plus 25% of any accrued interest.

As of April 2016, all the responsible parties for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have agreed to settlements or had judgments rendered against them that will result in approximately $133 million in funding for the Science Program plus the portion of interested on the Trust Fund that accrues to the program.

How long will the Program continue?

The RESTORE Act does not specify an end date for the Program, but the Program will end when the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund is fully expended. Per the terms of the settlement between BP and the federal government regarding BP’s Clean Water Act liabilities, BP will be making settlement payments until 2031. These payments will flow into the Trust Fund, so the Program will continue at least until then.

How will funding be distributed?

The NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program will generally use competitive, peer-review approaches to address the Program’s long-term priorities and rely most often on grants and/or cooperative agreements when making awards. The Program may also use other mechanisms, including contracts, to ensure the flexibility needed to do the work required and involve appropriate partners.

What activities can the Program support?

The Program can support research, observation, and monitoring projects located in or impacting the Gulf of Mexico and focused on increasing our understanding of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, including its fisheries, and informing its management, including its restoration.

Who is eligible to compete for funding from the Program?

Eligible applicants are institutions of higher education; other non-profits; state, local, and Indian Tribal governments; commercial organizations; and U.S. Territories that possess the statutory authority to accept funding for this type of research.

Federal agencies that possess the statutory authority to accept funding for this type of research are also eligible. However, the Program will not fund the salary of any permanent Federal employee. The Program will only support travel, equipment, supplies, and contractual personnel costs associated with the work proposed by a principal investigator from a federal agency.

Principal investigators are not required to be employed by an eligible entity that is based in one of the five Gulf of Mexico states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, or Texas); however, investigators that are not from Gulf of Mexico-based eligible entities are encouraged to collaborate with partners from a Gulf of Mexico-based eligible entity.

Foreign researchers may apply as sub-awardees through an eligible US entity.

What is the geographic scope of the Program?

The RESTORE Act stipulates that Program funds be expend “with respect to the Gulf of Mexico”. To provide geographic boundaries for the Program, the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem is defined as the ocean basin bounded by the United States along its northeastern, northern, and northwestern edges; Mexico on its southwestern and southern edges; and Cuba on its southeastern edge. This definition of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem includes the estuarine and marine environments of the basin’s continental shelf and its deep water environments. International, federal, and state waters are encompassed within this defined area. In addition to supporting research conducted in the Gulf of Mexico, the Program will also support research on processes that impact the Gulf of Mexico in a direct, significant, and quantifiable way, which includes processes in the watersheds draining into the Gulf of Mexico and coastal terrestrial areas that provide habitat for important wildlife species.

Can the Program support existing NOAA activities?

The NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program may not support existing or planned research led by NOAA unless agreed to in writing by the grant recipient. NOAA is also prohibited by the RESTORE Act from using funding from the Program to implement existing or new regulations or develop a new limited access fisheries program.

How does the Program relate to other RESTORE Act activities?

The NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program is one of several activities that will be supported by the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund which was established by the RESTORE Act.

The other activities are:

  • Gulf Coast natural resources restoration and economic recovery supported by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (30% of Trust Fund plus 50% of interest from the Trust Fund)
  • Gulf Coast natural resources restoration and economic recovery supported by one of the Gulf States (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, or Texas) using funds equally divided among the Gulf States (35% of the Trust Fund) or using funds divided among the states based on the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on each state (30% of the Trust Fund).
  • Centers of Excellence Research Grants (2.5% of Trust Fund plus 25% of interest from the Trust Fund) to be awarded in each of the Gulf States.

The NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program and the Centers of Excellence are expressly authorized to conduct research, technology development, and monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico.

The natural resources and restoration and economic recovery which the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and the Gulf States are authorized to support may include research, technology development, and monitoring, but is broader in scope. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council is authorized to support activities, using the best available science, which would restore and protect the natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, coastal wetlands, and economy of the Gulf Coast. The Gulf States can support the restoration and protection of natural resources, mitigation of damage to natural resources, implementation of conservation management plans, workforce development, improvement to State parks, infrastructure development benefiting the economy or ecological resources, coastal flood protection, planning assistance, and promotion of tourism.

Is the Program coordinating with other science initiatives stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?

The NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program is seeking to complement the research, observing, and monitoring activities supported by the other components of the RESTORE Act including the Centers of Excellence, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, and Gulf States. In addition, the Program is coordinating with the other programs established following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that are focused on increasing our understanding of the Gulf of Mexico and restoring it such as the Gulf Research Program at the National Academy of Science, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. The Program is also actively engaging and coordinating with governmental and non-governmental research programs active in the region prior to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

How can I provide input to the Program?

You can send questions and comments directly to the Program at noaarestorescience@noaa.gov. If you are interested in getting updates from the Program and learning about future seminars, workshops, conference sessions and other events where you can provide input in person please sign up to received announcements from the Program.