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Bayou Chico Among Nine Projects Receiving Gulf Restoration Funds


  The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation this week announced the release of nearly $100 million  for Gulf Restoration Projects. That includes $34.3 million for nine projects in Florida, as well as four projects totaling $9.6 million in Alabama.

The money is part of the fines resulting from the settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and BP and Transocean to resolve criminal charges against both companies in relation to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Provisions within the 2013 plea agreement direct $2.5 Billion dollars to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation over a five year period.

The foundation, or NFWF, administers the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund and leads the effort to determine which projects receive grants.

Kelly Samek, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the selection process is done in collaboration with a host of partners such as FWC and the Department of Environmental Protection.

“It’s not necessarily what was affected most. These projects do have to remedy or reduce risk of harm to the type of natural resources that were affected by the spill. But, unlike certain other types of oil spill restoration funding, it doesn’t have to be as tightly linked.”

Locally, this second year of grants provides $11,032,300 for restoration of Bayou Chico in Pensacola, with $2.1 million in leverage funds. This is a suite of projects that will reduce sediments and nutrient loading to the bayou, reduce turbidity, increase water clarity, and improve light penetration to promote expansion of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) habitat. SAV provides habitat to fish, shrimp, crabs and other estuarine species that were negatively impacted by the oil spill.

“Bayou Chico has certainly been a priority of the Escambia County Commission,” said District Four Commissioner Grover Robinson, IV.

Robinson has lead Gulf restoration efforts for the county and is chair of the Gulf Consortium for the state of Florida.

“With NRDA (Natural Resource Damage Assessment), we’ve already put in a boat ramp at the old Mahogany Mill Site. As part of that, we also took out what we knew to be a significant amount of underground pollutants on site, so that’s been remediated,” Robinson said, noting that this year’s grant will allow the county to continue their on-going efforts to restore Bayou Chico.

Robinson noted that Bayou Chico had been in the running last year, but wasn’t chosen for funding. He believes it took an effort to reeducate the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to see the basic benefits of good, clean water.

“What we tried to make them cognizant of is that water quality projects are the most important for habitat. If you don’t have good water quality, you won’t have good habitat for shellfish, other benthic animals or fish to live in,” said Robinson.

Elsewhere across the region, the City of Niceville is slated to receive $4,223,000 for the Boggy Bayou Watershed Water Quality Improvement project. Nearly $3.6 million is designated for the City of Destin for Water Quality Improvement in Destin Harbor, Joe’s Bayou, and Indian Bayou. The Coastal Dune Lakes project in Walton County will get just over $3 million.

Also, for the second year, there’s funding for Restoration and Management of Escribano Point Coastal Habitat. Nearly $1.5 million dollars will go to FWC for strategic acquisitions in Santa Rosa County to preserve approximately 590 acres in coastal wildlife habitat. FWC’s Kelly Samek calls it one of the great success stories in restoration in Florida.

In addition to the $34.3 million dollars funding nine gulf restoration projects in Florida, four projects in Alabama are set to receive $9.6 million dollars. Link to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund for more information. 

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.