The Board of County Commissioners (BCC) on Tuesday, Feb. 26 endorsed a four-month plan to accept local projects eligible for RESTORE Act funding, compensation for the tragic Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire in April 2010 that killed 11 workers and spilled about 200 million gallons of oil unabated into the Gulf of Mexico.
Until the civil penalties are settled in a federal trial in New Orleans that began Monday, Feb. 25, the exact amount of funding Collier County will receive is undetermined. But Collier like the other 22 counties along the Gulf are preparing project lists in advance.
The civil trial could result in fines of $5 to $20 billion to be allocated to the five Gulf Coast states impacted by the oil spill: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Criminal penalties have been settled and total $4 billion.
In Florida, a 2011 legislative mandate requires 75 percent of the dollars go to the eight “disproportionate” counties that are most impacted and 25 percent be directed at the 15 less affected “non-disproportionate” coastal counties, including Collier County. A specific allocation will definitely go to the 23 Gulf coastal counties based on a formula that includes distance from the oil spill, sales tax figures, and population in the 2010 Census.
At their regular meeting Tuesday, the BCC unanimously endorsed a plan to accept projects from community agencies, individuals and other parties based on their newly-adopted “Guiding Principles” and the “Allowable Uses” dictated in the RESTORE Act legislation, passed by Congress in June 2012 and signed by President Obama in July 2012.
The Collier-specific Guiding Principles approved Feb. 26 include:
1. Projects provide positive environmental and economic benefits, including job creation.
2. Projects are consistent with local government comprehensive plans and community priorities.
3. Projects incorporate other funding partners to fully leverage grant resources.
4. Projects meet the funding criteria set forth in the RESTORE Act.
5. Projects selected will be diverse and address all our community’s eligible needs, including coastal and ecosystem restoration and development, flood protection, and tourism promotion.
In addition, the BCC approved directing county staff to coordinate a Selection Committee which will include the following stakeholder representatives: City of Naples, City of Marco Island and Everglades City; Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Big Cypress Basin; Tourism Development Council; and Collier County Marine Industries Association. Letters of invite were sent to those parties Feb. 26, along with an “info sheet” and “interest form” for projects. Five staff members are also participating on the committee.
The Selection Committee will receive proposed projects from all interested parties, review and evaluate, and present to the BCC a prioritized list of projects to consider for funding. Process updates will be posted on the county’s RESTORE Act website athttp://www.colliergov.net/index.aspx?page=7066. Information and forms for project submissions are available on the website, which is linked from the Board of County Commissioners webpage.
The Collier County Natural Resources Department will receive proposed projects from internal and external parties Feb. 26 through April 9. The Selection Committee will hold review meetings April 10 through May 21 to evaluate, categorize and prioritize projects. The County Manager will review the final list from May 22 through June 11. The BCC will be presented with the prioritized list of projects as well as all submissions on June 25, 2013.
For more information, contact Debbie Wight, legislative affairs coordinator, at [email protected] or 239-252-8113.