Introduction

In August, 2012, Governor Phil Bryant announced the creation of GoCoast 2020 to serve as the official advisory body for the allocation of funds received by the State of Mississippi under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunity, and Revived Economies of the Gulf States Act of 2011 (RESTORE).

The federal RESTORE Act directs that 80 percent of certain penalties assessed as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill be directed to the five Gulf Coast states impacted by the spill. GoCoast 2020 was established to set a foundation and road map of priorities for Mississippi so the state will be better prepared as the final federal guidelines and regulations are set forth under RESTORE.

Created by an Executive Order from Governor Bryant, GoCoast 2020 was comprised of more than one hundred business and community leaders, elected officials and citizens from across the three Mississippi Gulf Coast counties. At the Governor’s direction, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Trudy Fisher, took a leadership role in the GoCoast 2020 Commission and compiling this final Report.

As a Coast-driven process with the goal of including a broad representation of input into this document, the GoCoast 2020 Commission relied on involvement from a wide range of people and expertise. Several hundred citizens attended and participated in the three listening sessions that were held in each of the three coastal counties in October, 2012.

The GoCoast2020 website (www.GoCoast2020.com) also provided an easy way for citizens to learn more about the process and to submit their ideas to the commission. The public was actively engaged throughout the work of GoCoast 2020, which provided valuable insight for this final Report.

Through several months of meetings, workshops, public listening sessions, and extensive research, GoCoast 2020 focused on eight key areas related to the activities specified in the RESTORE Act. The purposes of this activity were to chart a vision and to provide a framework of recommendations that will protect the environment as the foundation of the coastal lifeblood, improve the job creation climate to increase economic opportunities, and enhance the unique quality of life for Mississippi’s coastal residents in the near term and for generations to come.

GoCoast 2020’s eight key areas of focus were:

• Eco-restoration
• Economic development
• Seafood
• Infrastructure
• Tourism
• Workforce development
• Small business
• Research and education

The eight committees, referred to as GoTeams, compiled individual reports that were utilized in preparing this final GoCoast 2020 Report. Each GoTeam was tasked with providing a narrative of priorities, benefits, and its potential overall impact 3for their area of focus for the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast—on a regional basis—not just for a particular city or county.

Additionally, each GoTeam reviewed ways to leverage resources from local, state or federal funding sources that could be accessed to compliment any potential forthcoming RESTORE Act funds. GoTeams also examined any existing or ongoing programs that are now in place or in the development stages that could help supplement the priorities they identified.

This final Report is not intended to be a list of specific project funding requests. At the time of the writing of this report, federal guidelines and regulations are still in the process of being finalized and until that important component of the RESTORE Act has been completed, it would not be appropriate to begin outlining specific funding requests for individual projects. This final GoCoast 2020 Report is published to serve as a Coast-driven vision for the future that charts a course and lays a foundation for what is to come in the implementation of the RESTORE Act. That way, Mississippi can be as prepared as possible to maximize the use of RESTORE funding in a way that is responsible and prudent with a major emphasis placed on preserving and advancing the unique region of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“The most important resource on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is our people.” That statement was made by a citizen at one of the GoCoast 2020 public listening sessions. That essential truth guides the restoration efforts that will result from the work of GoCoast 2020 and the implementation of the RESTORE Act.