CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Texas OneGulf, led by the Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, is one of the first RESTORE Centers of Excellence in the nation to receive an award from the U.S. Treasury, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Commissioner Toby Baker announced Tuesday.
Texas was the first state to receive U.S. Treasury funds to support its RESTORE Centers of Excellence, research centers created after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to direct penalties in support of programs, projects, and activities that restore and protect the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast region. Texas OneGulf, a consortium of nine Texas institutions, and the Subsea Systems Institute at the University of Houston will equally share an initial $4.036 million.
The establishment of the centers is part of Texas’ ongoing implementation of the federal RESTORE Act, which requires that the five Gulf States affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill establish centers to conduct research on the Gulf Coast region.
“Texas OneGulf joins together for the first time the very best of Texas institutions with a focus on the Gulf of Mexico to make sure our political leadership, resource managers, business and industry, and our citizens have the best available science to address issues affecting the environmental and economic health of our state,” said Dr. Larry McKinney, HRI Director. “Texas is a coastal state and what happens in the Gulf and to the Gulf has real consequences for us all.”
The OneGulf consortium consists of a unique multi-disciplinary team of Texas marine science, socio-economic and human health institutions to promote collaborative research and problem-solving actions.
“Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is not only geographically positioned to contribute, but we also have highly qualified scientists at the Harte Research Institute who have been studying the health of the Gulf for years and will be able to take that research to an elevated level with the additional funding,” said Dr. Flavius Killebrew, President and CEO of A&M-Corpus Christi.
Established in January, Texas OneGulf will launch an ambitious initial two-year research program to address priority Gulf of Mexico issues affecting Texas. Some of those projects include: The establishment of a network of Texas-based Gulf of Mexico experts; the development of metrics to objectively assess the health of the Gulf; developing a system to ensure that the state’s emergency responders have quick and easy access to academic resources when responding to oil spills, hurricanes and other disasters; using autonomous underwater vehicles to track low-to-no oxygen “dead zones” off the coast of Texas; and linking the Gulf’s most powerful data and information resources to assure Texas researchers, decision-makers, resource managers and citizens have access to the best available Gulf science.
After the first two-year push, Texas OneGulf will be driven by a strategic research and action plan and will administer a competitive grant program.
“The Texas OneGulf initiative provides an important opportunity to improve not only the health of the Gulf of Mexico, but the citizens of Texas that depend on the Gulf for their livelihood, and are impacted by Gulf-related emergencies,” said Dr. Cheryl Walker, Director of the Center for Translational Environmental Health Research at Texas A&M University Health Science Center, a partner in the Texas OneGulf Consortium. “This funding will build a coordinated program to support disaster research response activities that will allow us to rapidly assess the impact of disasters along the Texas Gulf Coast on human health.”
In addition to HRI, partners in the Texas OneGulf Consortium include:
For more information, go to http://www.restorethetexascoast.org/.