Though the Deepwater Horizon spill was long ago, it’s anything but forgotten.
The county RESTORE Act Committee was back in session last week after a recess during which the U.S. Treasury issued draft rules for how to process applications for funding projects from counties affected by the 2010 spill that pumped more than 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.
Previously, the RAC reviewed 86 applications over a six-month period of ways to use potential BP money to improve the community.
The RAC ultimately whittled the projects down to 73 valid prospects that totaled over $113 million.
Gulf County is expected to receive around $2.3 million dollars when the settlement is complete, a far cry from the original estimates when the committee formed.
The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, a group made up of governors from Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, released a document that provided the framework for a coordinated region-wide restoration effort.
The plan was sent to all 23 Florida counties eligible under RESTORE and feedback was welcomed for a final draft that would ultimately be sent to the Gulf Coast Consortium, which represents the counties at the state capital in Tallahassee.
Though not all members of the RAC were present during the meeting, county attorney Jeremy Novak led the group through the provisions and noted their feedback.
The available members of the RAC discussed the need for additional clarifications in the plan, especially when it came to the allowance of revised RESTORE plans to be submitted once a dollar amount is assigned to each county.
Committee member Pat Hardman wanted the Restoration Council to push for money to be paid as Non-Federal Restitution Funds so that it couldn’t be taxed.
Throughout the meeting the RAC often became frustrated with the Treasury’s lack of progress toward establishing rules on how projects would be awarded money.
“We need good, clear guidelines,” said county administrator Don Butler.
“We need a timeline. We need a process,” added Port St. Joe city manager Jim Anderson.
Novak told the group that the process had become time consuming because it’s not a typical responsibility of the Treasury Department and, just like the RAC, they were making it up as they went along.
“It’s a unique piece of legislation,” said Novak. “This has never been done before.”
Once the Treasury has decided on its rules and allocated funds, the RAC can focus on which of the 73 projects will be seen to completion.
The RAC acts as an advisory committee for the Board of County Commissioners, which has the final say on what projects would be funded.
Barring any changes, the feedback would be presented to the BOCC and then be sent on to the Gulf Coast Consortium, of which County Commissioner Warren Yeager is a member.
The Consortium is a public entity created in 2012 by an Inter-local Agreement among Florida's 23 Gulf Coast counties.
The RESTORE Act was passed by the Congress in June 2012 and signed into law by the President in of the same year.