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Escambia and Santa Rosa leaders say 'transformational' funding from BP spill coming soon - Pensacola News Journal

Escambia and Santa Rosa leaders say 'transformational' funding from BP spill coming soon - Pensacola News Journal

Escambia and Santa Rosa leaders say 'transformational' funding from BP spill coming soon - Pensacola News Journal

Posted: 07 Oct 2019 04:00 AM PDT

Melissa Nelson Gabriel, Pensacola News Journal Published 6:00 a.m. CT Oct. 7, 2019


Although it has been more than nine years since oil from BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig hit area beaches, Escambia and Santa Rosa counties are just now starting to see tens of millions of dollars in restitution from the oil giant. 

Depending on how the funds are used, the money could transform the region for generations to come, experts say.

Restitution payments for the region include:

  • approximately $70 million from the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund designated for Escambia County and $30 million designated for Santa Rosa County,
  • a portion of $36 million in annual payments through 2031 in Natural Resource Damage Assessment money earmarked for projects in Florida,
  • a share of $1.5 billion in economic development grants to eight Panhandle counties from Triumph Gulf Coast,
  • and portions of several other pots of money designated for restoration of the Panhandle economy and ecosystem after the spill.   

Grover Robinson, now Pensacola's mayor, represented Pensacola Beach on the Escambia County Commission back in 2010 when the oil came ashore. He also led the 23-county Gulf Consortium created after the spill to guide Florida's spending of Clean Water Act penalties paid by BP, Transocean and Anadarko Oil. 

"From our environment to our economy, this is truly a transformational amount of funding," he said.

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Early projects in Escambia County

Matt Posner, the RESTORE program director for Santa Rosa County, isn't surprised it has taken so long for money to start flowing. 

"It's been almost 10 years since the spill, but we are really just ramping up as far as the projects and the funding," he said. "The RESTORE Act passed in 2012, the lawsuit was approved in 2016 and the payout was over 15 years so we are looking at 2030 or 31 until all of the payouts from the various pots end."

More: Escambia County receives three RESTORE ACT grant awards

Major projects in Escambia County include a request for $8.6 million in RESTORE funding for projects targeting cleanup of Carpenter Creek and its watershed as well as $1.6 million in funding for Hollice T. Williams Park upgrades. 

Robinson said both projects are crucial because they involve stormwater runoff and water quality. 

The Hollice T. Williams project, which stretches under I-110, should mitigate flooding in parts of downtown Pensacola, and the Carpenter Creek project should help water quality throughout the region, Robinson said. 

"We knew getting these projects going would take a long time so I am not discouraged by that," Robinson said. "There is a slowness with the bureaucracy but the important thing is that we are getting it done." 

Also in the works is the Pensacola Bay Living Shoreline Project, which will cover approximately 20,000 linear feet of waterfront outside Bayou Grande along the southern shore of Naval Air Station Pensacola. The county has approximately $500,000 in funding from various sources to cover design costs. 

And the county has another $330,000 for design work on a program to clean contaminated sediment in Bayou Chico. Posner said that money will go for engineering and analysis. 

"There will be many more projects down the road," he said. "These are projects that have been on our radar for a very long time, and they really are game-changing projects for us." 

The Pensacola International Airport has also received $66 million from Triumph Gulf Coast to expand its maintenance, repair and overhaul hangars in a bid to bring new aerospace-related jobs to the region.  

Early projects in Santa Rosa County

Triumph Gulf Coast awarded Santa Rosa County $8.5 million. BP is scheduled to pay the state of Florida $80 million a year through 2033 and the Triumph board is charged with awarding the money to the eight Panhandle counties impacted by the spill.

More: Company competing for new Navy training helicopter sweetens deal with Milton job plan

Naisy Dolar, RESTORE coordinator for Santa Rosa County, said among her county's other big BP-funded projects is one that will be announced at a County Commission meeting on Monday, expansion of the Navarre Beach Marine Park. 

Dolar said $2 million in Natural Resource Damage Assessment money has been earmarked to preserve a 4.75 acre parcel adjacent to the popular park. The plan will allow the beach land to be preserved in perpetuity, she said. 

Another priority for Santa Rosa County is $12 million in RESTORE money to improve water quality in Santa Rosa Sound. The money includes $5 million to move effluent from the Navarre Beach Wastewater Treatment Facility. 

More: Cleanup of Bayou Chico, Santa Rosa Sound expected with new RESTORE Act funding

Santa Rosa County is also developing an oyster shell recycling program, an oyster habitat restoration program and a program to improve 8 miles of the Blackwater Heritage Trail State Park by adding a restroom, benches and water fountains. And Santa Rosa County is working with Escambia County on the Pensacola & Perdido Bay Estuary Program, a $2 million project for conservation and management of the two bodies of water. 

"The goal is to ensure we are good stewards of watersheds and estuaries," Dolar said. 

Melissa Nelson Gabriel can be reached at or 850-426-1431.

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New Orlando businesses for week of Sept. 22 - Orlando Sentinel

Posted: 07 Oct 2019 11:32 AM PDT

[unable to retrieve full-text content]New Orlando businesses for week of Sept. 22  Orlando Sentinel


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