When the BP oil spill occurred in April 2010, skimmers like these were a common sight in Pensacola area waterways. Photo credit: University of West Florida
Santa Rosa County officials want to get the public's opinion on 15 proposed projects that are expected to be funded with the first round of money from the RESTORE Act, the federal legislation intended to compensate communities impacted by the 2010 BP oil spill.
The county is hosting two meetings to receive comments, one at 6 p.m. tonight at the Santa Rosa County Administration Complex, located at 6495 U.S. 90, in Milton, and one at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Woodlawn Beach Elementary School, located at 1500 Woodlawn Way, in Gulf Breeze.
The Escambia County RESTORE Advisory Committee meets Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 4 p.m. in the County Commission chambers, 221 Palafox Place, to discuss submitted projects and the next step in the process.
More than 120 projects were submitted for entry, with initiatives ranging from bayou restoration to workforce development, stormwater projects, habitat restoration and more. See the project details here.
"The meetings are not a requirement from (the U.S. Department of) Treasury, but taking public comment and incorporating meaningful comment into the final plan is a requirement," said Sheila Fitzgerald, the grants and special projects director for Santa Rosa County. "We felt it was important to inform the public about what the plan is, how it was developed and provide information about the projects proposed for funding."
About $4 million is available to Santa Rosa County in the first installment of money offered through the RESTORE Act. An additional $24 million will be made available to Santa Rosa County over the next 15 years.
The proposals for the first batch of cash include several water quality projects, road paving projects, workforce development projects and more. The complete list with details about each project is located at http://santarosa.fl.gov/bocc/RestoreDocs/plan091715.pdf.
Santa Rosa's Local Restore Council has conducted 26 meetings since it first convened in December 2012.
That council established broad goals for how the funding should be spent, decided on categories for funding which were in line with the eligible activities under the RESTORE Act and determined how projects would be scored, reviewed and ranked.
The council began accepting proposals for projects to be included in the county’s RESTORE Multi-Year Implementation Plan on Jan. 15. The application period closed on April 3.
This week's meetings will include a PowerPoint presentation about the proposals, with attendees invited to provide verbal comments, which will be recorded for transcription later, or fill out a comment card.
If you can't be there, submit written comments by email at [email protected] or by mail to Santa Rosa County BOCC, RESTORE Act Coordinator, 6495 Caroline St. Suite H, Milton, FL 32570. All comments must be received by Nov. 16 at 4:30 p.m.
After the public comment period ends, the comments will be presented to the Local Restore Council in December. The project list will then be sent to the County Commission in January 2016, and then submitted to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Grant awards are not expected until May 2016, at the earliest.
"If all goes as planned with Treasury reviews, projects are proposed to begin as early as July 2016," Fitzgerald said. "It is anticipated that grant funds will be received on a cash reimbursement basis as with other grants. In other words, we don’t actually get the money up front. It is held in the Treasury Fund for disbursement on a grant-by-grant basis."
What local projects already have received funding from money related to the BP oil spill?