PANAMA CITY — A bevy of Panhandle elected officials will be on hand Friday as Gulf restoration projects totaling $88 million will be announced at the downtown marina.
The proposed projects will be part of the “early restoration” effort for the eight counties affected by the 2010 BP oil spill, according to a Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) news release.
There will be a total of 28 projects totaling $88 million, said state Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.
“That’s not all the money we’ll get; it’s only a small amount,” he said.
State Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, said the projects will present a unique opportunity to benefit the environment and yield dividends that could last generations.
DEP officials would not release project details to the public, but spokeswoman Kendra Parson said there would be projects in all eight counties disproportionately affected by the spill.
Parson noted the projects are considered “proposed” and two public meetings will be held in January to collect feedback, and the public comment period will end Feb. 4. “Projects will either be amended, axed or approved based on that public comment,” she said.
Patronis said the projects could strengthen the Gulf and make the Panhandle environment more sustainable. “I think these dollars will be well warranted to help in those efforts,” he said.
The projects come through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process, which establishes a damage assessment and lays out a restoration plan.
In 2011, BP reached an agreement to put $1 billion toward early restoration projects: $500 million divided equally among Alabama, Florida Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas; $200 million for federal agencies; and $300 million for extra state-proposed restoration projects, according to DEP’s website.
This isn’t the first round of NRDA projects. The governor announced $58 million in early restoration projects in the spring, including $5.4 million for oyster restoration. That was phase III; the two other phases’ projects totaled $11.4 million.
The announcement at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Panama City Marina at 1 Harrison Ave. is open to the public.