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~28 Proposed Projects Benefitting Florida’s Panhandle~

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced the third set of Natural Resource Damage Assessment early restoration projects proposed by Florida’s Trustees to remedy damages made by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 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 total 28 proposed early restoration projects will be implemented throughout affected panhandle counties and are expected to utilize approximately $88 million of Florida’s total allocation. 

Governor Scott said, “Today’s announcement is great news for Florida and the families who call the Panhandle home. This funding will work to protect Florida’s environment so future generations of Floridians will be able to enjoy our state’s great natural treasures.”

Each Trustee, including Florida, has access to $100 million for early restoration projects that meet criteria described in the Framework Agreement. The first two sets of projects in Florida put forth by the Trustees used approximately $12 million of Florida’s share of the billion dollars.  The first two sets of projects include boat ramp and dune restorations along with coastal conservation projects, which seek to remedy damages incurred by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and resulting response activities.

The third phase of projects includes a $19 million marine fisheries hatchery enhancement center in Escambia County, a $12 million artificial reef creation and restoration regional project and a $10 million restoration and recreation project in Okaloosa County. Other projects include beach nourishment efforts, habitat restoration, oyster reef and dune restoration and increased recreation opportunities in the form of boat ramps, beach access points and park improvements.

Before any of the proposed projects are finalized, the projects will go through a 60-day public comment period that runs through Feb. 4. Included in the comment period are two public meetings in Florida; one in Pensacola on Jan. 28 and one on Jan. 29 in Panama City.

Senator Don Gaetz, Senate President, said, “I applaud Governor Scott, Secretary Vinyard of the FDEP, and Nick Wiley of FWC for their commitment to the counties that have been affected by the BP oil spill. The selection of the Norriego Point Restoration and the Habitat Restoration in Ft. Walton Beach demonstrate the good work that comes out of state and local communities working together.”

Senator Bill Montford, said, “I want to recognize Governor Scott and Secretary Vinyard of the FDEP for their commitment to the counties that have been affected by the BP oil spill. I am happy to see projects being proposed in Franklin, Gulf, and Wakulla Counties and other regional projects that will benefit its citizens in a major way.”

Representative Halsey Beshears said, “Governor Scott and Secretary Vinyard of the FDEP are committed to the counties that have been affected by the BP oil spill.  The regional projects being proposed show this and are a great way to improve the areas hardest hit in Florida by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. “

Representative Mike Hill said, "I want to thank Governor Scott and Secretary Vinyard of the FDEP for their commitment to the counties that have been affected by the BP oil spill.  Today's announcement of the proposed project at Escribano Point is an example of the link Florida has between a healthy environment and a strong economy.  This project along with the three others in Santa Rosa County will improve access to natural resources for our residents and visitors.”

Representative Clay Ingram said, "I am excited that six projects have been proposed 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."

Representative Jimmy Patronis said, “I applaud Governor Scott and Secretary Vinyard of the FDEP for their commitment to the counties that have been affected by the BP oil spill.  The improvements to the Panama City Fishing Pier are vital, since this is the only fishing pier in Panama City, and use of natural resources is what draws so many people to our area.”

Walton County Commissioner Sara Comander said, “I am excited to see the proposal of several projects specifically for Walton County as well as other regional projects benefitting our county, which will allow visitors and residents to use our beautiful natural resources.”

Santa Rosa County Commissioner Jim Melvin said, “Today’s announcement is welcome news for Santa Rosa County. The proposed projects are an important investment in our vital local natural resources, resources which not only support our diverse wildlife, but also support the quality of life for our residents by enhancing economic and recreational opportunities. We look forward to the public review process and implementation of these restoration projections.”

Wakulla County Commission Chairman Merritt said, “It is an honor to have three of Wakulla’s NRDA projects selected out of hundreds submitted from other counties and organizations.  These funds are an asset to Wakulla and will be put to good use by improving and enhancing our parks for the enjoyment and use of our citizens and visitors.” 

Okaloosa County Commissioner Dave Parisot said, “The projects of the Norriego Point Restoration in Destin and the Northwest Florida Estuarine Restoration in Fort Walton Beach have been jointly proposed and supported by Okaloosa County and the two cities' mayors and staff.  These projects will serve to enhance and protect the Destin Harbor, improve recreation activities, and enhance eco-tourism in Okaloosa County.  We are most grateful to the NRDA Trustee Council and to FDEP Secretary Vinyard in supporting these projects."

Destin City Mayor Sam Seevers said, “On behalf of the City of Destin, I wish to thank DEP, FWC and the NRDA Trustees for recognizing the significance of the Norriego Point Project. I realize the decisions to fund projects is a very difficult one but you all have made the City of Destin and Okaloosa County very happy. There are simply no words great enough that can possibly express our gratitude.

“The City of Destin began applying for assistance through the NRDA process in late 2010, after the oil spill diminished a promising tourist season and crippled the city’s charter fishing fleet. Over the last three years, we have worked tirelessly to submit applications and file for permits to qualify for NRDA funds to stabilize Norriego Point.

“Norriego Point is the city’s most unique asset and protects our wonderful charter fishing fleet which is vital to our local, as well as regional, economy. This funding provides us with the means to permanently eliminate the erosion of the point and ensure that our harbor is accessible for years to come.

“We look forward to working with DEP through this process and look forward to cutting the ribbon on this much needed project.”

Bay County Commission Chair Guy Tunnell said, “The Gulf oil spill was a tragedy not only for Bay County and Northwest Florida, but all along the Gulf of Mexico, threatening our environment, our economy and our very way of life. Through assistance such as this, communities can begin to rebuild for the future.”

FDEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard, Jr. said, “Governor Scott’s announcement of the third set of projects and the Draft Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement and Programmatic Early Restoration Plan is a significant step in restoring Florida’s environment, which was damaged as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We recognize that we still have a long way to go in terms of restoration, and look forward to hearing from the public during the comment period.” 

Nick Wiley, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director, said, “These projects are important steps in restoring our habitat and recreational opportunities for today and for future generations. There are several projects in this package that would help recover and ensure a bright future for saltwater fishing in the Gulf. We look forward to the upcoming public meetings and input from the public and our stakeholders.”

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are co-Trustees for the state of Florida in the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment. Other members of the Trustee Council include the U.S. Department of Interior, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Trustees from the other affected Gulf States (Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas). The Trustee Council represents the public interest and works together to assess the injury to natural resources and develop plans to restore the injured resources through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process. 

For more information on the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, public meetings, and projects ideas being submitted visit