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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Hernando lays out plans for BP oil spill money


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BROOKSVILLE - Hernando County is in line to receive money from the British Petroleum oil spill in April 2010.

How much is still unknown. However, Public Information Manager Virginia Singer said Monday the county will use the money in part to implement the Hernando County strategic plan, recently written by County Administrator Len Sossamon.

Sossamon's strategic plan includes several big-ticket environmental and economic development projects which would seem to fall within the parameters of the RESTORE Act funding, which will relieve counties affected by the spill.

Some of those strategic plan initiatives that could be considered for funding include:

? Enhance and preserve the Hernando Beach channel, canal lands, estuaries and beaches.

? Complete the third year of sandhill/scrub habitat restoration at Cypress Lakes Preserve

? Begin the stormwater and erosion control project at Nobleton Wayside Park, which would improve water quality and sediment control

? Coordinate with county departments and state agencies to assist with protection and habitat management of Chinsegut Hill.

? Put money into the county's environmentally sensitive lands program to maintain and manage the lands currently designated as part of that program.

Singer also said the county has met a key deadline of Nov. 5 by submitting final comments to the facilitating agency handling the money distribution.

"We're definitely encouraged that this deadline is here," Singer said. "We've reached another milestone."

The Deep Water Horizon oil spill affected all of Florida's Gulf Coast communities, in terms of environmental and economic damages.

"We don't know how much money we will get," said Singer, who is working with Sossamon on the RESTORE Act funding.

The Gulf Consortium consists of 23 Gulf Coast counties that came together to meet requirements of the RESTORE Act to develop a State Expenditure Plan for economic and environmental recovery of the Gulf Coast in Florida following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The RESTORE Act was passed by Congress on June 29, 2012 and signed into law on July 6, 2012 by President Obama.

The Gulf Consortium will distribute the money using the formula of 35 percent going to Gulf Coast states in equal shares, which will flow directly to 23 individual coastal counties in Florida.

The money will not have to go through the state legislature or governor, which allows communities such as Hernando at the local level to determine where best to invest that money needed to shore up the environmental and economic recovery.

Although none of the oil made it to Hernando Beach, the disaster affected the county's 13 charter boat companies, which reported a fall-off in new bookings due to people hesitant to come there and fish.

Some hotel owners reported business down 15-25 percent.

Besides Hernando, other counties involved in the BP compensation are Bay, Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, Dixie, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Monroe, Okaloosa, Pasco, Pinellas, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Taylor, Wakulla and Walton.

(352) 544-5290

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