Billy Williams, Walton County RESTORE Act coordinator, and Melinda Gates, environmental specialist for Walton County Public Works, met with Walton Republican Women Federated last month to discuss possible uses of RESTORE Act money. The RESTORE Act, which stands for Resources Ecosystems Sustainability Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies, was passed in 2012 and directs that 80 percent of the civil penalties levied against BP go into the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund which is to be split among the five states impacted by the Deepwater Horizon spill. Florida will receive $3.25 billion and $572 million will go into the Gulf Restoration Trust Fund.
Williams and Gates detailed the five “pots of money” that RESTORE Act funds will be allocated to.
- Pot 1 is the Local RESTORE Act fund, which accounts for 35 percent of the Gulf Restoration Trust Fund and must be split evenly between the five affected states. Seventy-five percent of Florida’s share must go to Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf, Franklin, and Wakulla counties, as they were disproportionately affected by the spill. This money may be used for ecological restoration, economic development, and tourism promotion.
- Pot 2 is the “council pot” and accounts for 30 percent of the Gulf Restoration Trust Fund plus interest. The funds from this pot will be used to implement a recovery plan, approved by the Gulf Coast Restoration Council, which is comprised of the sitting governor of each Gulf state or their designee as well as representatives from the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Army, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of the Interior.
- Pot 3 is the “consortium pot” and accounts for another 30 percent of the trust fund. These funds will be divided among the states and each state is required to submit a plan for approval by the Gulf Restoration Council. Florida’s portion will be overseen by the Gulf Consortium, which is comprised of representatives from the state’s 23 gulf counties.
- Pot 4 accounts for 2.5 percent plus interest and will be directed to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science, Observation, Monitoring and Technology Program within the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- Pot 5 accounts for 2.5 percent plus interest and will be split evenly among the gulf states for Centers of Excellence Grants for ongoing research on the Gulf Coast Region.
The importance of protecting the $1.5 billion earmarked for the disproportionately affected eight-county area through a strong local organization was emphasized. According to Walton County commissioner Sara Comander, who sits on the executive board of the Gulf Consortium, officials from the eight counties are “all united”.
Walton County began taking project funding applications in April and has received 42 proposals, which will be evaluated by the local Walton County RESTORE Act committee to decide which projects will be recommended to the Walton County Board of Commissioners.
For additional information on this topic or generally about your property rights, contact Will Dunaway.
For more information on the RESTORE Act, check out the following links:
US Treasury – RESTORE ACT
Walton County RESTORE Act Committee
The Gulf Consortium
FL Department of Environmental Protection