CHIPLEY — Getting RESTORE Act funds for local projects may take some effort, but it is possible that some of the federal money could find its way to Washington County.
Senior Planner Mike DeRuntz gave a presentation to the Washington County Board of County Commissioners Wednesday outlining the steps needed for the county to pursue recognition as an area impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.
DeRuntz was given approval by the board to pursue the federal funds and prepare working on a grant proposal.
Deepwater Horizon was the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
0n April 20, 2010, an explosion on the rig caused by a blowout and killed 11 crewmen. The explosion also ignited a fireballl visible from 35 miles away.
The resulting fire could not be extinguished and, on April 22, Deepwater Horizon sank, leaving the well gushing at the sea bed, according to hazmatmag.com.
The total amount of money that will be garnered through Clean Water Act civil and administrative penalties is unknown, but the fines that BP pays will go into the RESTORE Act trust fund will be divided 80-20, with 20 percent going into a oil spill liability trust fund and the 80 percent getting divided between the states (35 percent), the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council Allocation (30 percent), Oil Spill Restoration Impact Allocation (30 percent), the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science, Observation, Monitoring & Technology Program (2.5 percent) and the Centers of Excellence (2.5 percent), according to a flow chart prepared by the Ocean Conservancy which DeRuntz presented to the commissioners.
The 35 percent that is slated for the states will be divided equally, with Florida receiving 7 percent — 75 percent of that amount is destined for the “disproportionately impacted counties,” Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla.
Washington County hopes to be one of the non-disproportionately affected counties, which will share the remaining 25 percent of the funds, DeRuntz said.
“We’re not identified specifically by name, because we don’t have coast lines to the Gulf,” DeRuntz said. “But there is language in the bill that states that counties within 25 miles of the Gulf can apply.”
DeRuntz said that for the county to apply for RESTORE Act funds, several steps would have to be taken, including creating a committee of stakeholders and identifying projects which meet the federal grant parameters, which include things such as promotion of seafood, conservation and land acquisition, workforce development and tourism/fishing promotion.
“If we put a grant in, it has to focus on these grant parameters,” DeRuntz said. Tasks such as updating the county parks map or developing a watershed management plan are two such projects the county could pursue under the RESTORE Act funding.
“I think we should definitely go after this,” said Board Chairman Alan Bush. “The major north-south corridors run right through Washington County, so there is no way we weren’t impacted by this, and we should be able to show that.”
Commissioner Charles Brock said he knew of several people in southern Washington County who lost their jobs following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill due to the economic downturn in Bay County. “I know for a fact the people in the south end of District 3 were impacted hard.”