A controversy over how Deepwater Horizon cleanup funds are being spent

Workers clean oil leftover from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico March 3, 2011 at Perdido Key State Park in Pensacola, Fla.

So far, BP has spent more than $14 billion on Gulf Coast cleanup following the Deepwater Horizon spill. Recently the company announced another round of spending -- this time, $594 million going to the five states bordering the Gulf.

To this point, early restoration money from Florida to Texas has gone toward dune and marsh restoration, and bringing back bird and sea turtle habitats. The company has cleaned up thousands of miles of shoreline.

But some say the latest projects funded by a share of BP money have nothing at all to do with the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Take Alabama, for example, where most of the $100 million the state is getting from BP is going toward enhancements, including a new lodge and conference center at Gulf State Park.

"Gulf State Park is an integral part of the coastal experience here in Alabama," says Herb Malone, president and CEO of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism in Alabama. He says the old lodge had aged over decades, and suffered damage from Hurricane Ivan.

But Malone says there is a connection to the spill. "If the oil spill took away the right of human use for the citizens of Alabama for such an extended period of time, then  this facility will enhance the human use capabilities and therefore that's where the mitigation factor comes from," Malone says.   

But Aaron Viles, deputy director of the environmental group Gulf Restoration Network, says it's an example of misplaced priorities. "That I think just goes in the face of what these restoration dollars are supposed to be accomplishing," Viles says.

Viles says there's still lots of environmental work to be done.

"I think they're choosing economic activity because that's a bigger payoff for them politically," he says. Along with BP, the group that decides how the money may be spent includes state and federal officials.

Speaking of economic activity, Herb Malone says Alabama is seeing a record year for tourism along the coast.

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