Florida gets $34 mil oil spill grant for conservation

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Florida on Monday received $34.3 million in a second batch of conservation grants from a settlement over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation said the money will fund nine projects that were decided upon in consultation with Florida and federal environmental agencies.

Gov. Rick Scott applauded the funding and said the work will protect natural resources for future generations. Many of the projects will benefit the Panhandle.

In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, owned by Transocean, exploded, killing 11 workers off the Louisiana Gulf Coast. It triggered the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history and led to lawsuits and criminal charges against Transocean, BP, which was leasing the rig to drill for oil thousands of feet below the water, and others.

The money is the second disbursement from the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. It was created by a settlement between the U.S. government, BP and Transocean to resolve criminal charges in the spill.

All told, Florida has received more than $50 million for 15 restoration projects in the state, according to the NFWF.

The state is to receive a total of $356 million from the fund over a five-year period. The group will consider another round of project funding in 2015.

Among the projects funded are a $3 million plan to continue studying the recovery of fisheries; $4.5 million for studying the west Florida reefs potentially damaged by the spill and nearly $2 million for oyster habitat restoration in Saint Andrew Bay.

“The Gulf Coast was badly damaged in 2010, but this money will lead to significant progress in restoring the area’s ecosystem,” said Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in a statement.

“Protecting and restoring Florida’s natural resources is vital not only to our state’s economy, but to the state’s character,” he said.