Panhandle families have a great opportunity to let authorities handling resolution of the Deep Water Horizon oil disaster know just how they want to see the funds spent.  On Thursday, February 28, 2013 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will host a public meeting at the Panama City campus of Gulf Coast State College from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm CST. On February 26 they will also offer a webinar to gather input on the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council’s Path Forward document and Florida’s projects to be submitted to the Council for consideration.

The meeting in Panama City is the first opportunity many will have had to see how planning for projects under the RESTORE Act is being conducted. We hope those who live along the Gulf Coast will take advantage of this opportunity to tell representatives from the state and the Gulf Restoration Council just how important it is to restore the ecology of the Gulf.

The Gulf Restoration Council (a combined federal/state planning group) and the Florida Consortium (composed of 22 of the 23 Gulf Coast counties in Florida) will have jurisdiction over two of the three pots of funding coming to Florida. They are seeking public input for the initial Comprehensive Plan for Gulf Restoration at this meeting and in similar meetings around the Gulf Coast. Estimates are that BP and the other responsible parties will be fined upwards of $21Billion based on a complex formula driven by the number of barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf as a result of the April 2010 explosion.

From the Gulf’s $41 billion recreational fishing impact to its $31 billion tourism industry, the region’s economy relies on a clean and healthy environment. While every ecosystem restoration project helps restore and sustain the Gulf’s natural resource-based economy, some purely economic development projects threaten to harm its environment. We want to be sure the Council members understand that those who rely on the Gulf expect to see real restoration projects, like improvements to the quality and quantity of water flowing into our bays and bayous. Ensuring adequate levels of clean freshwater inflows, rebuilding wetlands, and restoring estuaries to full environmental productivity will help protect people and property from storm events, and support fishing, tourism and other jobs that depend on a healthy Gulf of Mexico.

Those interested in attending or speaking at the February 28 meeting are encouraged to arrive early, bring a short well-rehearsed statement and leave any specific project recommendations in writing with the staff.

The full schedule of RESTORE Act meetings in Florida includes:

Webinar:

Tuesday, Feb. 26

12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST

Go to the DEP website for more information –

https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/727220354

 

Panama City Meeting:

Thursday, Feb. 28

Gulf Coast State College

5230 W. U.S. 98

6:00 p.m. CST Open House

7:00 – 9:00 p.m. CST Meeting & Public Comment

 

St. Petersburg Meeting:

Wednesday, March 13

Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

100 Eighth Ave. SE

6:00 p.m. EST Open House

7:00 – 9:00 p.m. EST Meeting & Public Comment

 

For more information contact: Jay Liles, Florida Wildlife Federation, jliles@fwfonline.org

Image courtesy Florida Wildlife Federation

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