Keys groups collectively want $67.5 million from BP spill settlement

kwadlow@keynoter.comDecember 28, 2013 

The Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill didn't send any oil south to the Keys but people cancelled vacations in the ribbon of islands merely because of the threat.

KEYSINFONET

More than two dozen governments, organizations and companies have sent requests for a combined $67.5 million from Monroe County's share of a BP Deepwater Horizon oil-spill settlement.

The problem: That is nearly three times as much as the highest estimate -- $23 million -- of the Florida Keys' possible share of proceeds from Restore Act funding.

On the low end of the range, Monroe County may get just $5 million to distribute from the Keys-specific share of Restore Act money.

No one has any idea how much money will be available, or when. Projects seeking Restore Act money must help restore the environment or local economy.

Applications submitted to the county run the gamut from $35,000 to promote sea-turtle protection at a Key West museum and $50,000 to distribute environmental information aimed at local residents, to $8.6 million for Truman Waterfront projects and a combined $13.2 million for canal restoration proposed by county and municipal governments.

An international ocean-exploration foundation seeks $409,678 to use deep-diving technology to research fish-spawning sites and discover the extent of invasive species in depths below standard diving limits.

The Reef Environmental Education Foundation of Key Largo, a pioneer in battling lionfish in the Caribbean, requested $631,360 to boost efforts to find and kill lionfish in Keys Waters.

Three organizations that support fish and wildlife suggest building or buying facilities to treat or research wildlife.

The Aquarius Foundation applied for more than $1 million to help run the world's only operating underwater marine research habitat, located off the Upper Keys.

Eleven members of the local Restore Act Advisory Committee, appointed by the Monroe County Commission and municipal commissions, are charged with reviewing and ranking applications. Advisory committee members met earlier this year to establish the ranking procedure but have not seen all the applications. 

"There has not been any official review process," member David Makepeace said Friday.

The county originally set a November closing date for applications, then extended it until Dec. 20.

The Restore Act funding "gives us an opportunity to make lemonade out of the lemons from the Deepwater Horizon spill," Makepeace said. "My guess is that we won't come close to funding everything that's needed."

Congress passed the Restore Act in 2012 to funnel most of the money that BP pays in civil fines for violating the Clean Water Act to areas harmed by the spill or the threat of it.

Those fines could total anywhere from $5.4 billion to $21 billion, estimates say. A complex formula allocates most of that money to Gulf of Mexico areas that had oil on their beaches.

Although no Deepwater Horizon oil reached the Keys, concern over the spill scared visitors away and harmed the summer 2010 tourism economy.

The April 2010 explosion aboard the oil-drilling platform in the northern Gulf of Mexico killed 11 people and resulted in an 86-day spill that stained the gulf with more than 200 million gallons of oil, the largest spill in U.S. history.

Which groups want how much from the BP disaster

Numerous Keys organizations and those with interests in the islands have requested millions of dollars related to the April 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Applications submitted for Monroe County's Restore Act funding from BP Deepwater Horizon civil fines (applicant, project description, amount requested):

  • A Positive Step for Monroe County: Counseling and mentoring for at-risk children, $623,350.

  • Aquarius Foundation: Support for the Aquarius undersea laboratory, $1.08 million.

  • Audubon Florida, Cape Sable wetland restoration and canal filling, $271,550.

  • Aurora Trust Foundation: Deep undersea surveys of fish-spawning sites and invasive species, $409,678.

  • Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, three projects: Center for conservation research and outreach, $2,963,103; waterway channel and bank restoration, $639,395; and analysis of seagrass damage from groundings, $260,030.

  • Key Colony Beach, three projects: Canal restoration, $1,188,496; stormwater project Phase 6, $4,144,694; and wastewater project, $1,545,000.

  • Key West, two projects: Truman Waterfront revitalization, $8,609,442; and city marina needs, $441,500.

  • Marathon, five projects: Boot Key purchase, $4.48 million; canal restoration, $4 million; replacing exotic plants with native plants, $1 million; restoring historic tidal flows, $3.75 million; and Sunset Point Park at the Seven Mile Bridge, $1.25 million.

  • Monroe County, four projects: Canal restoration (unincorporated county), $2 million; canal restoration (countywide), $6 million; countywide mooring field system, $1 million; and stormwater treatment, $3 million.

  • Dolphin Research Center, two projects: Wild dolphin research support, $277,845; and manatee rescue support, $220,000.

  • Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association: Fish and marine mammal habitat restoration, $480,000.

  • Florida Keys Community College, four projects: Grouper fishery enhancement, $811,637; repair and upgrades to research vessel Dante Fascell, $88,800; study on lemon-shark breeding grounds in Marquesas, $682,698; and using filter-feeder habitats to clean waterways, $663,023.

  • Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center: Facility for bird rehabilitation and education, $354,000.

  • Institute for Regional Conservation: Species inventory and restoration of backcountry islands, $329,429.

  • Islamorada: Canal restoration, $3.8 million.

  • Key West Algae Inc.: Sustainable energy, $491,500.

  • Key West Botanical Garden Society: Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden restoration, $1,004,912.

  • Key West Wildlife Center: Wildlife care and education center, $637,131.

  • Keys Adventure Guides Inc.: Teall's Guides Local Knowledge edition, $50,000.

  • Mel Fisher Maritime Museum: Promoting sea turtle conservation at Cannery Museum, $35,000.

  • Reef Environmental Education Foundation: Lionfish survey and removal, $631,360.
  • Schooner Western Union Preservation Society: Refitting the historic Western Union vessel, $450,000.

  • Sea King/Amy N Inc.: Derelict-vessel removal and marine cleanup, cost on per-project basis.

  • Sugarloaf School: Junior Environmentalists of Tomorrow program, $214,000.

  • The Conservation Fund (Monroe County): Purchase of Johnson Tract on Sugarloaf Key, $3.6 million.

  • The Nature Conservancy: Coral reef restoration, $1,186,519.

  • The Turtle Hospital: Purchase of Hidden Harbor Motel, $1.75 million.

  • The Studios of Key West: Building renovation, $1.05 million.

  • Way Down Video Inc.: promotional TV show, $200,400.

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