TALLAHASSEE – Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard, Jr. welcomed the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council’s Path Forward document, which was released on Jan. 29. The Path Forward document is the first step in accomplishing the important work of the Council in restoring the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding states following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in April of 2010. Governor Scott has directed the Department to begin asking the public for project ideas to be considered for inclusion in the initial Comprehensive Plan, which will be drafted and implemented by the Council.
“We are pleased to see the Path Forward document completed so that we can begin the process of seeking public input into a Comprehensive Plan for Gulf Coast restoration that will have lasting results on the environment and for Floridians along the Gulf,” said Secretary Vinyard. “The State of Florida is prepared to play a strong role and work closely with the counties and all others affected by the spill, ensuring that the funding categories available to the State are efficiently and effectively utilized to address both environmental and economic injury sustained from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”
The RESTORE Act, which was passed by Congress on June 29, 2012 and signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2012, created the Council, and established various funding categories. The Council comprises the five gulf state governors and six federal agencies. The Council is required, after notice and opportunity for public comment, to have published an initial Comprehensive Plan by July 6, 2013.
The intent of accepting projects from the public for the Council funding is to ensure the State includes the best proposed projects for Florida, which will result in quick and meaningful environmental restoration. In addition to the Council funding allocation, there are several other funding categories, two of which will address projects developed by Florida’s gulf coastal counties in conjunction with other interested stakeholders. The Act also outlines two smaller funding categories which will fund monitoring programs and research grants.
The Department has created a new link within the existing Deepwater Horizon webpage, http://www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon/projects_restore_act.htm, which will allow interested parties to fill in a form and submit projects that they feel meet the criteria for restoration. In addition to hosting a public meeting in late February, date and place to be announced, the Department will implement a public outreach program designed to ensure that all interested parties have an opportunity to participate in the planning process and review of proposed projects.