Franklin County officials are hoping to get a chunk of $58 million in early restoration projects for Florida that have been proposed by the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees as part of a third phase.



Beginning in April 2011, BP set aside $1 billion in early restoration monies to the trustees, who include representatives from the U.S. departments of interior, agriculture and environmental protection, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the five Gulf states. For Florida, the lead trustee is Mimi Drew, former secretary of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, with co-trustee Nick Wiley, who directs the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.



The four potential projects that could impact Franklin County include $5.4 million for oyster reef restoration for Escambia, Santa Rosa, Bay and Franklin counties. This project would involve placing cultch material over approximately 210 acres for the settling of oyster larvae and oyster colonization in the Pensacola Bay system in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties, the St. Andrew Bay system in Bay County, and in the Apalachicola Bay system in Franklin County.



Also proposed is approximately $3 million for scallop enhancement for increased recreational fishing opportunity in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf, and Franklin counties. This project would enhance naturally occurring bay scallop (Argopecten irradians) populations in Panhandle bays to support expanded recreational fishing opportunities.



A third project would spend about $2.7 million to help seagrass recover in the bays of Gulf, Franklin and Bay counties. This project would provide for the restoration of seagrass beds by stabilizing propeller scars over approximately two acres in three aquatic preserves within Alligator Harbor, St. Joseph Bay and St. Andrew Bay. Also included would be boater outreach educational information and Shallow Seagrass Area signage.



A fourth project would spend about $800,000 on the “Cat Point Living Shoreline Project.” By constructing a breakwater, this project would stabilize shoreline in St. George Sound, so as to protect the embayment and create salt marsh habitat by reducing wave energy and providing substrate for oyster larvae.. Also included would be the creation of salt marsh habitat, which would help to restore important habitat for many species of fish and birds.



The additional eight Florida projects proposed for Phase III, out of 28 Gulfwide, are $20 million for a Gulf Coast Marine Fisheries Hatchery/ Enhancement Center in Escambia County; about $11.4 million for Artificial Reef Creation and Restoration for Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, and Bay counties; approximately $11 million for Pensacola Bay Living Shoreline, Escambia County; about $1.5 million for Big Lagoon State Park Boat Ramp Improvement, Escambia County; about $1 million for Bob Sikes Pier Restoration, Escambia County; approximately $880,000 for Shell Point Beach Nourishment, Wakulla County; approximately $600,000 for Perdido Key Boardwalk Improvements, Escambia County; and approximately $600,000 for Perdido Key Dune Restoration, Escambia County.



These projects, if successfully finalized after public review and comment, are in addition to the seven projects, on which Florida has been working, including several boat ramps, a dune restoration project and projects to protect and restore shorebird and sea turtle nesting habitat. With the additional projects, Florida will have allocated nearly $69 million of the $100 million available through the early restoration process defined in the April 2011 Framework Agreement between BP and the Trustees.



The Trustees intend to propose the early restoration projects using a method similar to previous draft restoration plans in order to continue the process of using early restoration funding to restore natural resources, ecological services and human use services injured or lost as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.



 “We’re committed to restoring the environment and economy that families have relied upon in the Gulf for generations,” said Gov. Rick Scott. “These $58 million in Florida projects represent a critical step forward in recovering from the natural resource and recreational losses that resulted from the BP oil spill. We will continue to work with our state, federal and local partners toward solutions that ensure impacted areas are revitalized for families.”



Kendra Parson, Gulf Coast public affairs manager, for the Florida DEP, said the hope is to move forward on Phase II projects by the end of summer, after public input and possible environmental impact studies are complete.