County seeks answers on disaster funding

Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 10:26 AM.

The upcoming infusion of millions of federal dollars to revive Apalachicola Bay’s listless oyster industry stirred up as many questions as it did answers at Tuesday’s county commission meeting.

Last week’s announcement that Apalachicola Bay would be getting $6.3 million in fishery disaster funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce set the stage for what turned out to be murky waters of how everything will eventually shake out.

The first item clarified for county commissioners by Franklin County Seafood Workers Association President Shannon Hartsfield was that the bay would be getting only about $4.5 million, its pro-rated share of the $6.3 million also earmarked for oyster bar replenishment in Escambia, Bay and Wakulla counties.

In addition, this fishery disaster funding comes out of a total earmark of $75 million, to be administered by the National Marines Fisheries Service to six fishery disasters throughout the nation. (See inset box)

“Yes, I am disappointed,” he said. “We’re at the bottom of the totem pole.”

Hartsfield said he and other members of the county’s ad-hoc oyster recovery team met Monday with Jim Estes, a representative of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which will administer the disaster funds. He said Estes provided a rough breakdown of how the monies would be spent in the affected counties, and sought input from local leaders.

Hartsfield said $900,000 of the money would go to reimburse the state’s oyster processors for upgrading their processing facilities. He said the local group asked that two items - about $388,000 has been allocated to cover the cost of FWC monitoring of the funding, and $563,000 for reeducation and training of displaced fishermen – be removed as funding options.



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