MS - Dispute Over GOMESA Funds Places MS DMR in Limbo
The FY 2021 budget for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR) was not adopted by the Legislature before the end of the fiscal year last week, meaning it is operating temporarily on advanced federal funds the Governor’s office has utilized to maintain its mission until lawmakers reach agreement and send it forward to Gov. Tate Reeves for his signature.
How long those funds can sustain DMR is unclear at this time, but Governor Reeves has said it won’t last long.
The current state of DMR operations doesn’t seem to be at issue. While there was once a concern by legislators about how DMR was managed following the indictment and arrest of a former executive director in 2013, the current leadership under Joe Spraggins has been exemplary.
The reason for the stalemate now seems to be a debate over who should control millions of dollars in GOMESA funds – the Governor or the Legislature.
GOMESA stands for the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act. It was created in 2006 under a revenue-sharing model for oil and gas producing gulf states. Under the act, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas receive a portion of the revenue generated from oil and gas production offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. The act also directs a portion of revenue to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The current period to submit project applications expired on June 30, 2020.
Under GOMESA, the allowable uses of funding are outlined as:
- Projects and activities for the purposes of coastal protection, including conservation, coastal restoration, hurricane protection and infrastructure directly affected by coastal wetland losses;
- Mitigation of damage to fish, wildlife or natural resources;
- Implementation of a federally-approved marine, coastal or conservation management plan;