WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice and BP have reached an $18.7 billion settlement five years after BP's Deepwater Horizon spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a press release.

The funds will address long-standing environmental issues and economic damages caused by the disaster, noted the release. The settlement follows President Obama’s commitment to restore the heath of the Gulf.

One billion dollars of the money will address impacts beyond the shore, stated Bethany Carl Kraft, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Gulf Restoration Program. She believes efforts must address three areas to be successful: “coastal environments, marine habitats and wildlife, and coastal communities.”

Kraft continued that there is still work to be done following the announcement. “Now our state and federal decision-makers must commit themselves to a transparent and science-based approach to ecosystem restoration,” she added in the release. “This is our best first chance to restore the Gulf’s ecosystem, and we cannot afford to waste time or effort on projects that don’t restore the vital natural resources that wildlife and coastal communities depend on to thrive.

Since it can take decades before the full effects on some species like bluefin tuna and sperm whales are fully known, a “reserve of $232 million to address restoration from injuries documented after the effective date of the settlement is critical,” shared Kraft in the release.

Click here to read the entire release.