The Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council named the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, the home of Alabama’s Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium (MESC), as the RESTORE (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy) Research Center of Excellence for the state of Alabama. The designation was awarded by unanimous vote on Friday, May 10, 2013, during the Council’s meeting at Five Rivers Delta Resource Center.
Congress established the RESTORE Act following the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill to direct 2.5 percent of Clean Water Act penalties to the states affected by the disaster. As directed by the RESTORE Act, the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council is comprised of The Governor of Alabama; the Director of the Alabama State Port Authority; the Chairman of the Baldwin County Commission; The President of the Mobile County Commission; and the mayors of Bayou La Batre, Dauphin Island, Fairhope, Gulf Shores, Mobile and Orange Beach.
Founded in 1971 to reduce program redundancy in higher education , the MESC is comprised of twenty-two colleges and universities located throughout the state of Alabama, and serves as the state’s longstanding marine science education and research institution.
The MESC has been in the forefront of research immediately after and since the BP Oil Spill. In 2010, Governor Bob Riley granted the MESC responsibility for the $5 million Rapid Response Funds for immediate research following the disaster. In just four months, the MESC efficiently dispersed funds to over 100 scientists located throughout the state, rigorously using prestigious extramurally reviewer resources found throughout the Gulf of Mexico. A large number of research studies and published papers resulted from those funds, increasing scientists’ understanding of the early effects of this unprecedented tragedy on the state’s resources.
“We are gratified by the Council’s thoughtful and thorough decision-making process designating the MESC the state’s RESTORE Research Center of Excellence,” said Dr. John Valentine, MESC Executive Director.
“The MESC was in a unique position when the BP oil spill occurred, having already collected decades of ecosystem data in the areas where the spill would have its effect.
“We were established by the Alabama legislature forty years ago as a consortium, establishing strong partnerships with twenty-two of the state’s colleges and universities. Also, we are uniquely situated in the Gulf of Mexico, and have worked long and hard with government and local agencies on both sides of the Mobile Bay, in Mobile and Baldwin counties.
“The DISL will continue to use those strengths and resources which we’ve honed over the years and we look forward to deepening our understanding of how we can better conserve the state’s natural resources for our children’s children and beyond,” Dr. Valentine concluded.