GOVERNOR SCOTT REQUESTS MORE THAN $77 MILLION IN GULF COAST RESTORATION PROJECTS

~ State of Florida proposals include 20 projects for the Gulf Coast~

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced five proposals for 20 projects totaling $77 million were submitted to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (council) for consideration under the Council-Selected Restoration Component portion of funding through the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act).

 

Governor Scott said, “We’re committed to protecting and restoring Florida’s estuaries, and these $77 million in projects would significantly bolster our efforts to protect and restore our natural treasures. Our Department of Environmental Protection has worked closely with local leaders and environmental stakeholders to identify the projects that will best benefit our critical ecosystems. Through state funding we’ve made major investments in the Everglades and the Keys, and with these dollars we’ll make similar investments in North Florida’s estuaries and continue to make Florida’s environment a priority.”

 

Funding Proposals

These proposals address high priority restoration needs in 10 major watersheds from Perdido Bay to Tampa Bay. They also represent the feedback received from numerous meetings with stakeholders and citizens. Additionally, the proposals represent projects from the list of over 1,200 submissions to the Department of Environmental Protections’ online portal.

 

  • The Pensacola Bay Watershed Proposal encompasses two living shoreline projects, a wastewater reuse project, a stormwater and wastewater improvement project, and a contaminated sediment removal planning project. These projects will collectively improve Pensacola and East bays, a portion of the Santa Rosa Sound, as well as Bayou Chico. The funding amount for this proposal totals $15.9 million.

 

  • The Apalachicola Bay Watershed Proposal includes three major projects that would improve fresh water flows to the hydrologically impacted bay. Also, an expansion of a Natural Resource Damage Assessment oyster population rebuilding project, a marsh and oyster reef project, and an agricultural pollution reduction project will help to restore the bay and assist affected oystermen. The funding amount for this proposal totals $26.1 million.

 

  • The Suwannee River Watershed Proposal would provide $12.1 million in funds to acquire conservation easements in the Florida Forever Lower Suwannee River and Gulf Less-than-Fee Program and to implement an oyster restoration project near Cedar Key, as well as an agriculture pollution reduction project. These projects will restore and protect water quality and habitats that sustain the local communities whose economies depend on these vital resources.
  • The Tampa Bay Watershed Proposal includes $6.9 million in funding for five projects, three of which are shovel-ready stormwater projects that would improve water quality and habitat within this watershed. Also included in this proposal are Manatee County’s Robinson Preserve restoration and Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary living shoreline installations, which are two highly ranked projects identified in the Southwest Florida Regional Ecosystem Restoration Plan.

 

  • The last proposal, Northwest Florida Estuaries and Watersheds Proposal, is intended to complete the current watershed planning efforts in the Panhandle and includes funding for design, permitting, implementation and monitoring for high priority water quality and habitat restoration projects that will be identified through these planning efforts. The funding amount for this proposal totals $16.8 million.

 

The five proposals, involving approximately 20 specific projects, total more than $77 million in requested funding. Information may be found about each proposal at www.deepwaterhorizonflorida.com.

 

“Water quality is a top priority in Florida, and the projects in the submitted proposals significantly reflect that priority. We hope to see the projects approved and implemented in the near future,” said Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. of the Department of Environmental Protection. “The proposals submitted are just one example of Governor Scott’s commitment to the environment.”

 

“Thanks to the Governor’s leadership this group of Florida proposals advances a vision for restoring some of our most important Gulf Coast estuaries and watersheds,” said Nick Wiley, Executive Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “These RESTORE projects would revitalize key habitat for fish and wildlife and help support the economies of coastal communities that are so closely tied to these resources.”

 

“The Gulf Consortium is tasked with creating the State Expenditure Plan for the Spill Impact Component of the RESTORE Act funds and working with Governor Scott is an important step to gaining successful projects for the state of Florida,” said Mike Sole, Governor Scott’s appointee to the Gulf Consortium. “Florida’s proposals submitted to the Council focus on restoring Florida’s natural resources and as a member of the Gulf Consortium, I am thankful to Governor Scott for his continued dedication to restoring the Gulf Coast.”

 

“Audubon Florida is supportive of the five proposals submitted for consideration by the Council,” said Eric Draper, executive director for Audubon Florida. “There are many projects within the proposals that would continue Governor Scott’s work to conserve the vital habitats in our state.”

 

“These proposals show that Governor Scott and the state of Florida are committed to improving water quality, restoring critical habitats and cleaning up our shorelines,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. “From Apalachicola Bay to Central Florida springs to coastal estuaries, these projects will make a real difference across the state.”

 

“The Gulf Consortium is fully supportive of the proposals submitted by Governor Scott,” said President of the Florida Association of Counties, Chairman of the Gulf Consortium and Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson. “Also, local governments across the Florida Gulf Coast have greatly enjoyed the working relationship with Governor Scott and state agencies to plan, propose, and initiate restoration of our environmental assets.”

“The after affects of the BP oil spill are still felt in many communities and by many businesses in coastal Northwest Florida,” said Senator Don Gaetz. “The grant funding announced today is another step in rebuilding and strengthening our environment and our economy. I’m grateful to Governor Scott and Secretary Vinyard for working closely with local leaders on these funding decisions.”

 

“Protecting Florida’s water continues to be my top priority while serving in the Florida Senate,” said Senator Charles S. Dean (R-Inverness). “The projects Governor Scott submitted to the RESTORE Council under the Suwannee River Watershed proposal would help protect Florida’s natural resources for future generations.”

 

“Both the Pensacola Bay and the Northwest Florida Estuaries and Watersheds proposals are great news for the Panhandle,” said Representative Doug Broxson. “I want to thank Governor Scott for his continued commitment to restoring the Gulf Coast of Florida following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

 

“Pensacola Bay is one of Florida’s most important bays and I am grateful to Governor Scott, DEP Secretary Vinyard and Nick Wiley of FWC for their hard work in recognizing that restoring this bay is top priority for the state of Florida,” said City of Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward.

“We are so pleased to see three proposals including planning and implementation for Panhandle estuaries and watersheds were submitted by Governor Scott to the Council,” said Temperance Morgan, executive director for The Nature Conservancy. “These proposals would extend the good work being done by TNC and lay the foundation for a sophisticated estuary program for the Panhandle.”

 

“Governor Scott’s submitted proposals complement the work already being implemented in the Panhandle watersheds to preserve water quality and quantity,” said Jon Steverson, Executive Director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District. “We are hopeful the projects will be approved and more can be done to protect Northwest Florida’s water resources.”

 

“Tampa Bay is a critical lifeline to the health of the Gulf of Mexico and the projects included within the proposals submitted by Governor Scott reflect the much needed restoration and water quality improvement for Tampa Bay,” said Holly Greening, executive director of Tampa Bay National Estuary Program.

 

“The Suwannee River watershed is one of the largest watersheds affecting the Gulf of Mexico,” said Ann B. Shortelle, Ph.D. executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District. “The projects included in Governor Scott’s submitted proposal would address many water quality and habitat issues in the Suwannee River watershed.”

 

“Water is a necessary part of our lives and ensuring the quality of Florida’s water and associated natural resources is a top priority of the state and our District,” said Robert Beltran, executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. “We are pleased to see that priority reflected in Governor Scott’s proposals for RESTORE Act funding.”

 

The RESTORE Act

 

The RESTORE Act allocates 80 percent of the Clean Water Act administrative and civil penalties resulting from the Deepwater Horizon incident to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. To date, Transocean is the only responsible party to settle its civil liability and a portion of those funds are now available. The Council-Selected Restoration Component, commonly known as Bucket 2, equates to 30 percent of available funds and is managed by the council. For this first round, the total available for projects is roughly $150 to $180 million to be shared among 11 council members.

 

Once the council staff receives all member proposals they will be reviewed for eligibility and posted online. The council members will then work to create a draft Funded Priorities List, which will be available in the Spring/Summer of 2015 for public review and comment.

 

The state of Florida will compete for Bucket 2 funding with the other states and federal agencies represented on the council. The proposals must align with the council’s Comprehensive Plan, which was published in August 2013. The Department of Environmental Protection and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have been working diligently to ensure Florida’s Bucket 2 proposals align with the council’s goals, have wide support and significantly contribute to the overall health of the Gulf of Mexico.

 

RESTORE Act funding is just a small portion of the overall environmental restoration work that is being implemented in the state of Florida to compensate the public for injuries caused by the Deepwater Horizon spill.

 

To date there has been nearly $175 million in approved projects and programs across Florida’s Gulf Coast communities through other funding sources, such as Natural Resource Damage Assessment early restoration and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. These projects range from living shorelines, land acquisitions, boat ramps, coastal conservancy and enhanced recreational use. Project selection processes among these multiple funding sources are coordinated to ensure projects that are chosen are complementary and successful for our treasured Gulf Coast.

 

These projects come on the heels of Florida securing a record level of funding for important environmental projects through the state budget. This year, Governor Scott approved more than $300 million for projects to improve water quality in south Florida and the Florida Keys. This investment will be used for critical projects for families and businesses that rely on these natural treasures, mitigate impacts of Lake Okeechobee’s discharges on our estuaries and divert more fresh water south to help restore the Everglades.

 

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