Gov. Scott proposes $77 million in Gulf restoration projects

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Gov. Rick Scott wants $77 million to fund five Gulf restoration projects throughout the state. Scott submitted the proposals to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council for funding consideration under the RESTORE Act.

The proposals target needs in 10 major watersheds and are directed at areas indicated through feedback from stakeholders at various meetings across the state. The proposals were also drawn from a list of more than 1,200 written restoration submissions.

 “We’re committed to protecting and restoring Florida’s estuaries, and these $77 million in projects would significantly bolster our efforts to protect and restore our natural treasures,” Scott said. “Our Department of Environmental Protection has worked closely with local leaders and environmental stakeholders to identify the projects that will best benefit our critical ecosystems. Through state funding we’ve made major investments in the Everglades and the Keys, and with these dollars we’ll make similar investments in North Florida’s estuaries and continue to make Florida’s environment a priority.”

The funding proposals include a nearly $7 million proposal for the Tampa Bay Watershed for five projects. Three of them are shovel-ready stormwater projects that would improve water quality and habitat within the watershed. Also included in that portion of Scott’s proposal is Manatee County’s Robinson Preserve restoration. The Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary living shoreline installations, which are two highly ranked projects identified in the Southwest Florida Regional Ecosystem Restoration Plan, would also see a boost.

Two living shoreline projects in the Pensacola Bay Watershed would benefit. That also includes a wastewater reuse project, stormwater and wastewater improvements and contaminated sediment removal. Those projects account for $15.9 million of the total requested funding.

The Apalachicola Bay Watershed also stands to gain from Scott’s proposal. Three major projects that would improve fresh-water flows to the bay. More than $26 million would go toward expanding natural resource damage assessment and rebuilding oyster populations as well as various other projects to restore the bay.

A project in the Suwannee River Watershed Proposal would provide $12.1 million in funds to acquire conservation easements in the Florida Forever Lower Suwannee River to implement an oyster restoration project near Cedar Key.

The Northwest Florida Estuaries and Watersheds Proposal is intended to complete the current watershed planning efforts in the Panhandle and includes funding for design, permitting, implementation and monitoring for high-priority water quality and habitat restoration projects that will be identified through planning efforts. The funding amount for that is $16.8 million.

“Water quality is a top priority in Florida, and the projects in the submitted proposals significantly reflect that priority. We hope to see the projects approved and implemented in the near future,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “The proposals submitted are just one example of Gov. Scott’s commitment to the environment.”

Funding through the RESTORE Act is intended to be used for restoration projects and research associated with the 2010 BP oil spill. The available funds come from the BP settlement.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.