Six years after Deepwater Horizon, tracking a long recovery

By Trust for Public Land
Published April 20, 2016

Six years after Deepwater Horizon, tracking a long recovery

In the spring of 2010, Terry Breed and his wife, Susan, opened a pontoon boat rental business in Destin, Florida.

“We were retired, bored, and looking for something to do,” says Terry. They leased some land and a dock down at the mouth of Choctawhatchee Bay and, far from kicking back to relax, started working 12-hour days serving boaters drawn to the bay’s crystal green waters and white sand beaches. 

They were eager to share the natural wonders of the Panhandle with their visitors. Terry, who’s lived in the region since 1980, puts it this way: “It’s as close to the Bahamas as you can get without actually being in the Bahamas.”

But that April 20—a still night just weeks after Terry and Susan got their business afloat—an offshore oilrig called Deepwater Horizon blew up in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion opened a hole on the seafloor that nobody knew how to plug.

For an entire summer, the ruptured well continued to bleed—an environmental disaster President Obama called the worst in the nation’s history. 

The oil would eventually extend 68,000 square miles—but the spill’s effects reached far beyond that. Oil washed up on beaches and marshes along 1,100 miles of the Gulf Coast. A million seabirds and thousands of marine mammals and sea turtles died after exposure to the oil, and the fishing and tourism industries reeled. 

The Deepwater Horizon cleanup officially ended in April 2014, but many people will tell you that the recovery is just getting started. Created with our help, The Deepwater Horizon Project Tracker is a centralized directory of projects funded as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It is the most comprehensive picture of the location, type, cost, funding sources, and scope of Gulf of Mexico oil spill-related recovery, restoration, and research projects.

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