The citizen advisory group charged with recommending the best of use of oil spill recovery dollars coming to Escambia County in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill has completed the ranking of 124 restoration projects that aim to aid in recovery of the economy, infrastructure and environment in Escambia County.
After a more than three-year long review, the county’s RESTORE Advisory Committee will send its final rankings of the projects to the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners, who will then choose which projects get funded.
In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill flooded the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Coast shorelines with more than 200 million gallons of crude oil. In the wake of the disaster, a host of fines and penalties were levied on BP, Transocean and the corporations responsible for the spill.
The nine member committee was organized in 2012 to develop a plan, solicit public input and set goals for Escambia County’s use of any funds received from the Resources, Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies (RESTORE) of the Gulf Coast States Act. The RESTORE Act was the federal action which has provided for the allocation and use of funds gained through civil penalties arising out of the spill.
Officials have stated Florida will receive at least $572 million from the RESTORE Act. Escambia County’s share of the pot, which is estimated to be $58.5 million from BP and $10.6 million from Transocean for a total of $69.1 million, will be paid by BP over a period of 15-18 years.
Initial project scoring for the first round of funding totaling $10.6 million has been undergoing review by the RESTORE committee, who is tasked with drafting a multi-year implementation plan to present to the Escambia County Board of Commissioners, who have final discretion on which projects to fund. The committee scored projects under three categories: economic, environment, and infrastructure.
Projects not funded in this cycle will be eligible to apply for future funding through an additional $59 million in direct component funding available to Escambia County, with approximately $4 million released annually over 15 years by the U.S. Treasury Department. The funding for the county’s multi-year plan is just one of the many sources of funding associated with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
Among the highest ranking environmental projects were the Eleven Mile Creek Stream Restoration in northwest Pensacola, the restoration of Bayou Texar and Carpenter’s Creek, the restoration of White Island off Warrington and Bayou Grande and the creation of the Hollice T. Williams stormwater management and recreational park and greenway beneath Interstate 110 adjacent to Long Hollow in Pensacola.
The highest ranking economic projects include conversion of a military airfield to a commerce park near Navy Federal Credit Union in Beulah and the development of a master plan for the Escambia Wood Treating Superfund site north of downtown Pensacola along Palafox Street.
The highest-ranking infrastructure project is the purchase and demolition of the Forest Creek Apartments complex, a large federally subsidized apartment block off Navy Boulevard along Jones Creek in Warrington.