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Deciding what to do with Restore Act money
ESCAMBIA COUNTY -- 260-million dollars up for grabs, and it's all up to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to decide who gets it.
It's the first payout from the parties responsible for the BP oil spill back in 2010.
Tonight, the Department of Environmental Protection held a meeting to explain which projects would qualify for the money and how they make those decisions.
But as Channel Three's Christina Leavenworth reports, each project has to benefit and restore the whole gulf region.
Looking at this distribution chart, the whole Restore Act can be pretty confusing. Well tonight they are clearing up exactly what type of projects they are looking for.
People were lined up outside the door, and there wasn't an empty seat. All these people here to contribute their ideas on how those millions of dollars can help restore the gulf.
After the Deepwater Horizon exploded, oil washed up on our beaches for months, and animals we recovered in oil. The long term effects are still unknown.
The room was packed with everyone from environmental advocates ...
"What we know is there is a lot we don't know..."
...to business owners. Fred Simmons owns Paradise Inn. He's here to make sure our area gets its fair share of money
"We were affected and we were affected drastically, money needs to go to counties that got hit, and I hope that's how it turns out... We've had quite a bit of erosion over the years, this is something the money has always been spent on the gulf..."
But here's the confusing part, there are five different pots of money. The majority of money will go to only three.
One pot will go to the affected counties, another to the state, and a third to the council that's responsible for gulf wide restoration.
That money will be split up between the affected states.
And that's the money DEP talked about spending tonight.
Mimi Drew, adviser
"We've received around 700 projects to the tune of about 20 billion dollars so our job is to sift through the projects and figure what are the best projects that meet all the criteria in the restore act...."
There isn't any formula to divvy up the funds. The draft plan leaves it pretty much up to a council to approve the projects, but there are some guidelines. The project must either restore habitat or water quality, replenish coastal and marine resources, enhance community resilience, or revitalize the gulf economy.
"One example would be something that coudl be done all across the gulf, oyster restoration, sealand restoration."
They specifically want to know what's important to locals, but the projects have to impact more than just our area.
"In Florida, things we might look at would be stormwater treatment projects that prevent stormwater pollutants from getting in Gulf of Mexico and affecting fish and wildlife..."
They hope to have a final comprehensive plan approved by July 6. Reporting in Escambia County, Christina Leavenworth, Channel 3 News.