TALLAHASSEE – Thursday Nov. 8,Florida’s lead Trustee — the Florida Department of Environmental Protection — along with Co-Trustee Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced that the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees approved two proposed projects for Florida totaling more than $6.3 million. Of Florida’s 770 miles of coastline, more than 170 miles experienced oil and response impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This set of proposed projects focuses on restoring nesting habitat for birds and sea turtles, which was injured during response efforts resulting from the spill. These projects will be finalized upon completion of the public comment period.
Governor Rick Scott said, “These restoration projects are important for our environment, our businesses and the communities that rely on these incredible natural habitats. While this is a step in the right direction, our work is not complete – and we will continue to work to ensure Florida communities are fully restored.”
The Deepwater Horizon Phase II Draft Early Restoration Plan and Environmental Review projects describe the second round of projects proposed to receive funding from the $1 billion BP committed to on April 2011, of which Florida will receive $100 million as a down payment for early restoration. The Phase I projects are well underway in Florida, which include four boat ramp construction projects along with a dune restoration project totaling more than $4.9 million, all located in Escambia county.
Florida’s economy is heavily dependent upon tourism and commercial fishing, and hosts the highest density of sea turtle nesting for any panhandle gulf coast state. The proposed projects address injuries related to the habitats of species which were not addressed in Phase I.
One of the projects proposes to protect nesting habitat for beach nesting birds from disturbance, by restoring nesting habitats that were disturbed from oil spill response activities. The second project plans to reduce artificial lighting impacts on nesting habitat for sea turtles, specifically loggerhead turtles, which will begin to restore nesting habitat impaired by disturbances from the increased lighting and machinery on the beaches from oil spill response activities.
In Florida, both of the proposed projects are planned to take place in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf and Franklin counties. The projects in this plan are being addressed separately from other early restoration projects in order to derive more natural resource benefits by implementing them in time for the 2013 nesting season.
The Trustees will hold a public meeting to solicit public comment on the plan and review projects Tuesday, Nov.13, at the Escambia County Central Complex Building, also known as the LEED Building. An open house will begin at 6 p.m. central time with the public meeting beginning at 7 p.m.
Visit www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov to view the DERP/EA, access public meeting information, to view additional details of the proposed early restoration projects, and ways to submit public comment. Public comment will be accepted until Dec. 10, 2012.
For more information on the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process and projects being submitted visit http://www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon.