Coastal Recovery Commission Holds 1st Meeting


The Associated Press
An oil cleanup worker drags bags of oily sand along the stained beach in Grand Isle, La., on Monday. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon incident continues to wash ashore on Grand Isle.

Alabama's Coastal Recovery Commission had its first meeting Tuesday. The commission will examine and make recommendations on recovery efforts involving the environment, economy and health concerns.

They'll look at the best way to use billions of dollars expected from BP for compensation for the oil spill. In fact, Gov. Bob Riley estimates the state could receive anywhere from $5 to 25-billio, although an exact figure is not yet known.

But, ideally, the commission made up of business and community leaders in Mobile and Baldwin counties, has one unified purpose.

“We've got a chore in front of us to make sure that where we end up, is better than where we started,” said Ricky Matthews.

Matthews, publisher of the Mobile Press Register, headed similar efforts in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina, says the commission will split into groups that each makes recommendations on the environment, the economy and health concerns. Dauphin Island Sea Lab's Dr. George Crozier says while uncertainties exist regarding the environment, it so far has seemed more resilient than humans--faced with mental, physical and economic issues.

“What we do know so far is that the human system is not demonstrating the same resilience as the natural system,” Dr. Crozier said.

With literally billions of dollars at stake, leaders of this commission hope to keep it from being carved up politically.

“The last thing you need to do is take something as substantial as what I think these payments are going to be and all of a sudden let them just filter away,” said Gov. Riley.

That's one of the reasons few politicians were appointed to the commission--a notable exception being Rep. Jo Bonner who represents the entire coast.
Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon says he hopes the two counties will end up on the same page in terms of future planning.

“It’s just very important that we approach this in a business-like fashion and that the two counties put together a plan where there is a real synergistic effect for growing dollars and generating the economy,” Kennon said.

The commission has until December 15th to make its recommendations.

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