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Siesta Key Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 5 years ago

Board sets BP settlement priorities

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

Three Gulf Coast estuary programs have teamed up to funnel the British Petroleum settlement cash to the west coast of Florida.

Sarasota County will likely receive some of the estimated $300 million in settlement money that is headed to the five states affected by Deepwater Horizon.

Sarasota County commissioners approved a list of 28 projects, with a $144.7 million price tag, that county staff developed.

The Joint Estuary Program group is composed of the Sarasota Bay Estuary program, the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary program and the Tampa Bay Estuary program.

The Joint Estuary Program, made up of the Sarasota Bay Estuary program, the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary program and the Tampa Bay Estuary program, will then fine-tune the list and send it to the Federal Gulf Coast Estuary Restoration Council, which will have the final say on the projects that will get federal funding.

Plans to acquire 50 acres along the Lemon Bay watershed in south Sarasota County topped the list of 28 projects, which also included four Siesta Key initiatives including habitat restoration at Turtle Beach.

The Federal RESTORE Act earmarks 35% of the funds from a potential settlement between the U.S. and BP for environmental and economic restoration for the five states affected by Deepwater Horizon.

The County Commission voted to move the Phillippi Creek Septic Tank Replacement project up in priority in the place of a plan to purchase 102 acres fronting Sarasota Bay.

County staff estimates the septic tank plan will cost $60 million.

“That’s a project that could go forward more readily with additional funding sources like that of the RESTORE act,” said Sarasota County Coastal Resources Manager Laird Wreford said.

Commissioners balked at the bayfront prospect when they discovered part of the purchase would come from Elling Eide’s controversial property.

Eide battled the county’s zoning regulations for more than a decade. Since his death early this year, county staff has not been able to determine who maintains the property.

County staff will submit the list to the Joint Estuary Program in January.

“It’s a good list,” said Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson. “I hope we get a good chunk of it.”

Ranked Restorations
Three Siesta Key environmental projects survived a Sarasota County staff priority ranking of watershed improvements to be submitted for federal funding request.

Sarasota County Commissioners approved a list of 28 projects for staff to send to the Joint Estuary Program, which is coordinating with estuary programs on the Gulf Coast to funnel revenues from an expected settlement between the U.S. and British Petroleum.

Project | Estimated | Cost rank

Siesta Key master pump station | $9 million | 4
Turtle Beach restoration | $150,000 | 19
Siesta Key beach restoration | $2.5 million | 24

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