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Santa Rosa Using RESTORE Money In Shell Game

Santa Rosa County is working on an oyster shell recycling pilot program to be used for newly restored oyster beds, providing habitats for fish and crabs as well as prevent shoreline erosion.
Santa Rosa County
Santa Rosa County is working on an oyster shell recycling pilot program to be used for newly restored oyster beds, providing habitats for fish and crabs as well as prevent shoreline erosion.

Santa Rosa County officials on Tuesday were updated on projects to be paid with money through the RESTORE Act.

The act, passed in 2012, was established to compensate communities along the Gulf Coast affected by the BP oil spill 12 years ago. Santa Rosa is on track to receive more than $29 million by 2031. More than $12 million has been received from the U.S. Treasury Department, which is handling the BP money.

Naisy Dolar, RESTORE program manager of grants and special programs, updated the local RESTORE Council at its annual meeting on the status of six projects in the county.

Dolar said the past year was a challenge, considering the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Sally in September.

“Rest assured, work continued as it relates to all the RESTORE activities,” she said during the 50-minute meeting.

Projects in the county include:

The “Offer Your Shell To Enhance Restoration” (O.Y.S.T.E.R) recycling pilot program. That’s where participating restaurants, including the Cutting Board and Cosse’s Place in Milton, and the Shrimp Basket locations in Milton and Navarre have collected oyster shells for reef restoration. The county’s RESTORE website points out “When the shell is placed in the water, baby oysters, called “spat,” are attracted to the clean shell and create or enhance oyster reefs. These reefs provide habitat and food for red drum, speckled trout, gulf sturgeon, and other marine organisms.”

Dolar said the goal was to collect about a ton of shells, but the program has already exceeded that amount.

Here is the latest on some of the other projects in the county:

Improvements at the Blackwater Heritage State Trail for $120,000 are in progress. “This project proposes to repair and stabilize critical areas in need, add a restroom, water fountains, and benches to the Blackwater Heritage State Trail, an 8.1-mile multiple-use, linear trail,” the county website says.

Dirt Road Paving in County Districts 1, 4, and 5 for $570,000 also is in progress. “This project includes the paving of approximately 4.30 miles of dirt roads in Santa Rosa County Districts 1, 4, and 5. Included roads in this program are primarily located on the Fairpoint Peninsula and were strategically identified for paving as a means of stabilizing soil, controlling erosion, and minimizing sediment runoff into Escambia Bay, Santa Rosa Sound, and East Bay which has a detrimental effect on water quality, marine life, and seagrasses. The roads will be paved to normal county paving standards. Site preparation, compaction, final grading, and dressing of road shoulders will be completed by Santa Rosa County with no costs charged to the grant.”

The goal of the Yellow River Marsh Restoration project, at a cost of $75,985, is “to restore the Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park to more natural environmental conditions. This will be completed through conducting mechanical treatments and prescribed fire to restore a portion of the wet prairie system on Garcon Point. Activities seek to provide adequate habitat for native plant and animal species. These natural communities have been shaped and maintained by periodic fire, which is an important management tool to restore and maintain these natural areas,” the county points out.

The Eufala Outfall Treatment project “involves the installation of an outfall treatment system on the outfall of an existing City of Gulf Breeze stormwater conveyance system. This will provide for water treatment and erosion control for Eufala Street, including hardening and protecting the discharge point for the existing Gilmore stormwater lift station. This will provide treatment for water discharged into the Pensacola Bay and improve water quality for both residents and tourists to the area,” the project description says. The total project cost is $747,790, with half – 373,895 – paid for by the City of Gulf Breeze.

The Tiger Point wastewater Treatment & Reclamation Facility application is still under review. If approved, $6 million could be used for that project.

Tuesday’s meeting included new appointees District 4 Commissioner Dave Piech, who will serve as the council chairman, and District 5 Commissioner Colten Wright, who will serve as the commissioners’ representative. They replace former commissioners Don Salter and Lane Lynchard.