The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission hosted a public meeting and webinar last week to gather public input on projects in Florida that could be funded by the federal RESTORE Act.



“I am thrilled with how many people have participated in the webinar and meetings and provided thoughtful and high quality ideas,” said Mimi Drew, Governor Scott’s representative on the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. “I hope we continue to see this type of input throughout the process.”



The meeting and webinar were designed to gather input on the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council’s Path Forward document and Florida’s projects to be submitted to the council for consideration. The Feb. 26 webinar drew 132 participants and the meeting Feb. 28 at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City hosted nearly 200 members of the public.



An additional public meeting will be held Wednesday, March 13, at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissions Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg. The department, along with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, is presenting information on the state’s five priority areas for projects and is accepting input on projects the public would like submitted to the Council for consideration for inclusion in the initial Comprehensive Plan.



The RESTORE Act, passed by Congress on June 29, 2012 and signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2012, created the council, and established several funding categories for the Clean Water Act civil and administrative penalties resulting from the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20, 2010.



The council is required, after notice and opportunity for public comment, to publish an initial comprehensive plan by July 6, 2013. The Path Forward document, which was released by the council on Jan. 29, describes how the council will build on the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Forces’ work and articulates the council’s plan to collaboratively develop the initial comprehensive plan.



The public may provide comments on the Path Forward document by email to RestoreCouncil@doc.gov



For more information on additional meeting or to submit projects to the state list visit the Department’s Deepwater Horizon webpage, www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon.