Press Release: Today, Governor Rick Scott announced the funding of the third and largest set of early restoration projects, as approved by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees. Nearly $88 million represents 28 projects, which will take place throughout many communities along the Panhandle. Additionally, two U.S. Department of the Interior projects will take place at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Escambia County and total approximately $15 million.
Governor Scott said, “Today’s announcement of more than $100 million in funding is great news for families in the Panhandle. We must protect our state’s natural treasures so future generations of Floridians will be able to enjoy our state’s great natural treasures.”
Across the five Gulf States, $627 million will be allocated to implement 44 projects that will continue restoration of the natural resources and associated lost recreational services, which were affected by the spill. This third phase of early restoration includes many proposals suggested by Florida citizens, such as oyster and scallop restoration, seagrass restoration, artificial reefs, living shorelines, recreational beach restoration and state park improvements. Public comment was essential to the development of the final plan and projects.
On April 20, 2011, BP agreed to provide $1 billion in early restoration funds to the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees for early restoration projects. The Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have trustee representatives for the state of Florida. With the third phase of early restoration, Florida’s portion, $100 million, will be completely funded; however, state officials will continue to participate in developing projects for the federal agencies to propose for implementation in Florida.
Senate President Don Gaetz said, “My hope – and that of all Northwest Floridians—is that these projects selected by local leaders will produce a true return-on-investment and be managed with careful stewardship.”
Representative Clay Ingram said, “I am excited that six projects have been approved for Escambia County, and I applaud Governor Scott and FDEP Secretary Vinyard for their continued work to restore Florida’s Gulf Coast, which was so badly damaged as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”
“I am proud of the work that is being done to restore Florida’s Gulf Coast,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “We will continue to work with the local communities on implementing these projects and look forward to future restoration.”
“I have been impressed with the coordination of both DEP and FWC on creating a suite of projects that will positively impact the Panhandle,” said Escambia County Commissioner and President of the Florida Association of Counties Grover Robinson. “One of the boat ramps in the first phase of early restoration projects, Mahogany Mill, took an adverse legacy and turned it into an environmental asset for our county. I look forward to many more significant improvements for our Gulf Coast communities.”
Santa Rosa County Commissioner Lane Lynchard said, “The Santa Rosa projects approved today demonstrate an additional step forward in our long-term recovery from the oil spill. These projects, as well as others to come, will have a lasting, positive impact on our environment.”
Walton County Commissioner Sara Comander said, “I am excited the Trustees have approved the Walton County projects as well as other regional projects benefiting our county, which will allow visitors and residents to make the most of our beautiful natural resources.”
“We are very pleased the third set of early restoration projects have been approved,” said FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley. “These projects will enhance important fisheries and help Florida retain its prominence as the Fishing Capital of the World.”
Early restoration represents an initial step in recovery. In the first two phases of early restoration, the state of Florida proposed a dune restoration project, four boat ramp enhancements in Escambia County and two coastal conservation projects that are taking place across many Panhandle counties. There has already been much accomplished by these projects and it is expected that the third phase will bring further successful restoration to the Gulf Coast communities. Assessment of injuries to our Gulf’s natural resources is still ongoing and ultimately, the responsible parties are obligated to compensate the public for the full scope of natural resource injuries caused by the spill.