Hernando County Commissioners approved a short list of projects just before Christmas to apply for federal money set aside to help the five Gulf States impacted by the BP oil spill.
If the projects do receive money from the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, Hernando County could see waterfront park improvements, new boat ramps, increased parking, offshore reef expansion – even new water mains and sewers on Pine and Oakley Islands.
In a telephone interview Saturday, County Commissioner Wayne Dukes said Hernando County has been working with a consortium of 23 Florida counties to apply for restitutions from the massive April 2010 spill that leaked million of gallons of oil into the Gulf until being stopped in July 2010.
Dukes said when the money became available a few months back, "everyone just started putting stuff together," with directors looking at projects that might fit into the guidelines. The deadline to apply for the money is Jan. 7.
What resulted, according to Dukes, was more of a "wish list" of projects that might qualify for the funds. Dukes said the next step is waiting for the Treasury Department to "scrutinize" the projects, and either approve or deny each project.
The projects submitted are:
Dukes said the "infrastructure" projects — like the new sewers — didn't leave him feeling "warm and fuzzy," and might not directly tie in with Gulf improvements or industries affected by the spill. Dukes said the money might needed to be spent on tourism in the county, adding Hernando County shrimpers were greatly affected by the oil spill, and that communities that improve recreational fishing often see an increase in tourist revenue.
Dukes said no one knows how much funding will be doled out, but many expect the figure to be between $15 billion and $22 billion.
Hernando County was recently denied money from the BP payout, with Pasco County receiving $250,000 for an ecotourism ad campaign.