You Avatar


The following sections detail the goals of the Coastal Recovery Commission of Alabama and explain the rationale for its creation.

Jump to:
Mission Statement
Frequently Asked Questions


The problem: The BP oil spill wasn’t just an industrial accident that temporarily threatened Gulf coastlines. It was a catastrophe of proportions that may take decades to measure. Its impacts transcend emergency response issues and have lasting implications for our coastal economy, ecology, and social institutions.

The solution: Build regional capacity for long-term resilience. We must position ourselves to respond not only to future oil spills but also to other forces beyond our control, including everything from hurricanes to sudden shifts in the economic environment. We must assure a future for our coast that strengthens its appeal to visitors and investors from around the world and protects its environmental assets for generations to come.

How we get from the problem to the solution: We need to shape a roadmap to resilience. While no one can predict the future, we nonetheless must adapt to what it has in store for us. So we need to develop and implement strategies across a broad range of categories that strengthen our communities’ – and our region’s — adaptability and sustainability over time. That’s the essence of resilience.

The role of this Commission: We will draft the roadmap. First, in collaboration with individuals and organizations across the full range of disciplines touched by the spill, we will broaden our understanding of its impacts. Then, we will propose bold but attainable goals, based on the most authoritative research and reality-tested best practices. Our roadmap should guide Alabama, regional, and national leaders in implementing policies that protect, preserve and enhance the assets that make Alabama’s Gulf Coast so important, not only to Alabamans, but to the Gulf region and the nation as a whole.

We will:
• Keep it Simple (explainable, doable)
• Make it Transparent (everything is public)
• Do it Fast (with a downloadable final report on Dec. 15)

Return to top


Question: What are we talking about here?
Answer: The Coastal Recovery Commission of Alabama, created by executive order of Gov. Bob Riley, is charged with doing two things. First, it will examine what we know so far about the impacts of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Then, it will make recommendations for ways in which the State of Alabama can strengthen its resilience in the face of future threats – not only from oil spills, but also from everything from hurricanes to sudden changes in the global economic environment.

Q: Why are we doing this now?
A: We expect BP and the Obama Administration to reach an agreement soon on how much money from oil spill penalties will be available to the affected states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. And while we don’t know the total or how it will be divided among the states or what strings may be attached to spending, we have every reason to believe Alabama will suddenly have significant resources at its disposal. Likely in the billions of dollars. And we want to be ready with a plan for ways to invest that money over the long term to assure the safety of South Alabama residents and visitors and to make the coast secure for long-term investment.

Q: This sounds different from BP’s short-term restitution plan that pays claims to individuals and businesses affected by the spill.
A: Yes, this is an entirely different program. It’s meant to lay the foundation for long-term planning, planning that will likely unfold over decades. We want a “roadmap to resilience.”

Q: “Resilience”? What do you mean by that?
A: Experts from a variety of disciplines have studied the capacities of communities around the world to respond effectively to natural and man-made disasters. They bundle these capacities under the general category of “resilience.” Communities that are able to bounce back from catastrophic events are ones that that are performing well in areas that might not seem, at first glance, to have anything to do with disaster response strategies.

Q: For instance?
A: Resilient cities and regions often have economies diversified enough to take a hit and come back strong. They’ve successfully protected environmental assets that help insulate them from many threats in the first place, then aid in faster recovery after catastrophic events. The most resilient communities also seem to be ones with systems of governance that are responsive and that enjoy the confidence of citizens, even when there are no emergencies. If you were to generalize, you might say resilient communities already have in place key tools for long-term sustainability. That means environmental sustainability; economic sustainability; and social sustainability.

Q: So how do we apply the idea of resilience to the goals of this Commission?
A: After analyzing the impacts of the recent oil spill, the Commission will spot key vulnerabilities and have a better sense of where South Alabama can bolster its resilience.

Q: How will it organize itself to do that?
A: The Commission will concentrate its work under three broad topics that seem to apply to most studies of resilience: A healthy environment; a healthy society; and a healthy economy.

Q: Who’s on this Commission?
A: The Commission is made up of business and civic leaders, primarily from Alabama’s coastal counties of Mobile and Baldwin. The Commission’s chair is Ricky Mathews, publisher of the Mobile Press-Register and head of the newspaper group that also publishes the Huntsville and Birmingham papers. (See the complete list on the website:

Q: Who picked these people?
A: Gov. Riley chose a core group to be the Commission’s executive board. And the board recruited other members, reflecting a broad range of business, civic, and academic interests.

Q: Where’s the money coming from?
A: The Commission’s budget comes from money already paid to the state from BP in partial compensation for the impacts of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill that began in April of 2010. No tax dollars are being used in this effort.

Q: When will we have the Commission’s recommendations?

A: There will be a downloadable pdf of the final report available on this Commission website no later than December 15, 2010. Printed books will follow as soon as possible.

Q: That’s fast.
A: Yes, there’s a sense of urgency. As we said above, we want a made-in-Alabama plan for how to best invest the BP penalty funds to prevent a free-for-all battle for those dollars. There’s another reason for moving quickly. We are asking some very busy people to put this effort at the top of their priority lists. So we owe it to them – and to Gov, Riley, the new governor elect, and the citizens of Alabama – to do our best work fast.

Q: How can the public participate?
A: All meetings of the Coastal Recovery Commission are public. The schedule of meetings, locations, and times will continue to be updated here. Plus: We want to take the work of the Commission directly to communities and individuals. Upon request, Commission members or staff will appear before clubs or groups to explain goals and work in progress. We will schedule a series of public “pin-up” sessions, Nov. 8-12, during which Commission members and staff will present work in progress for community review. Throughout the process, we’ll use this Commission website as a kind of combination newspaper/TV station to report on the latest news. And there will be a bi-weekly e-newsletter for all those who wish to get updates that way. We will do everything we can to encourage folks to watch over our shoulders as we undertake this once-in-a-generation assignment.

Return to top

  • Headline

    A once-in-a generation opportunity is upon us. A transformational moment in Alabama history.

    That’s how Gov. Bob Riley described hopes for the Coastal Recovery Commission (CRC) of Alabama, created by his executive order on September 27, 2010.

    The CRC’s mission: To shape, in the wake of BP’s Deep Water Horizon oil spill, “a roadmap to resilience” for South Alabama.

    “We must do everything we can to restore what’s been lost because of this disaster,” said Gov. Riley. “But we should also use this moment to strengthen the resilience of our state and coastal communities. The commission will recommend ways that improve our ability to respond to future challenges and examine strategies that will mean far less suffering the next time a catastrophe threatens us.”

    The CRC’s work is funded entirely with BP money already contributed to the state. No tax dollars will be used. What’s more, Gov. Riley took pains to insulate the Commission as much as possible from politics as usual. Since he leaves office in January, he’s acutely aware that the recommendations of the Commission will be in another governor’s hands. So he’s reached out to the political camps of both men vying to replace him, inviting them to appoint their own representatives to the Commission to participate in shaping a report that should inspire the new governor no matter who wins in the November elections.

    What’s more, Gov. Riley is asking local elected officials to give the Commission a little room to work. “We’ll bring politicians in,” said the governor. “But this will be a citizen-led – not a politician-led – effort. If we do that, I promise you it will be successful.”

    The CRC is made up of citizen leaders with broad ranges of experience in civic life in Alabama’s coastal region. It’s headed by Mobile Press-Register publisher Ricky Mathews, who brings to this effort the experience of a similar commission in the post-Hurricane Katrina environment of coastal Mississippi. For a complete list of CRC members, go here.

    “What we learned after Katrina on the Mississippi Coast,” said Mathews, “is that a crisis of even enormous proportions provides opportunities to re-imagine a whole region.

    “If we do our work on this commission right,” Mathews said, “we can position South Alabama for not only bouncing back more effectively from future catastrophes like oil spills and hurricanes but also for providing greater security and more opportunity for all of our citizens, even when there are no emergencies. That’s the essence of resiliency.”

    Forging consensus on what the oil spill’s impacts were and how to make the coast safer for citizens and visitors and more secure for long-term investment is tough enough. Implementing the Commission’s recommendations next year and in the years after will be harder – if the Commission is not able to begin building coalitions of support during this process. “If we’re to make the most of this opportunity,” said Mathews, “we have to begin thinking bigger and broader than we ever have.

    “Oil spills and hurricanes don’t just threaten isolated spots on a map,” said Mathews. “Their effects reverberate through an entire state, through a region even. So our chances for coping with future threats depend upon us building a regional vision, an awareness of how we’re connected with one another and how we can work with one another to do more than any of us as individual citizens or individual communities ever imagined.”

    This is a project on a fast track. At some point – no one knows exactly when – there is the potential for billions of dollars to flow to the coastal states from BP and from other energy-related sources. To assure that Alabama is positioned to make the most of this potential investment, “we need a plan,” said Gov. Riley. And it has to come quickly.

    So the Commission is committed to delivering its report by Dec. 15, initially as a downloadable pdf from this website. Printed books will be available soon thereafter.

    The Commission is organizing its work under three broad topics, each connected with the other and each representing a key component of regional adaptability and sustainability:

    A Healthy Environment
    A Healthy Society
    A Healthy Economy

    Commission members are assigned to each of the topics and will break the broader categories into sub-committees as they see fit. We’ll report on the activities of those committees and sub-committees on this website regularly.

    This is a very public process. Participation of regional experts, elected and appointed officials from all the towns and counties affected by the oil spill, regional business folks, and residents will have plenty of opportunities to review CRC work in progress and contribute their ideas and comments. They’ll be able to do that in person at community meetings, by mail or phone, and online via this website.

    Here’s how to make the best use of this site:

    If you want to know who’s on the Commission and who’s staffing it, click on the WHO tab in the toolbar above.

    If you want to understand the CRC’s mission, get answers to frequently asked questions, and see background data committees are gathering, click on the WHAT & WHY tab.

    If you want to know the schedule of public events and locations for meetings, click on the WHEN & WHERE tab.

    If you want to contact us directly, you’ll find information under CONTACT US, and at the bottom of each news post in the column to the left, is space for comments and questions.

    If you want to read or see what others are saying about the CRC effort, we’ll post links and documens under IN THE NEWS.

    This is going to move fast. So keep in touch. We need your participation.

    To see how the CRC based its work on the experiences of those most affected by the oil spill, click this video below:
    Click this video to watch our mid-course update:
    Click this video to explore the CRC's goals and principles:

    September 2018
    S M T W T F S