• Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of April 2010 in which 11 workers lost their lives in the explosion and 200 million gallons of oil gushed unabated into the Gulf of Mexico for three months, the Florida Association of Counties (FAC) and a group of lobbyists advocated at the onset to assist the eight (8) most impacted “disproportionate” counties. As lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C. increased, FAC had included 15 “non-disproportionately,” or less affected, Gulf counties. Collier County is one of those 15.
• From Monroe to Escambia counties, more than 100 County Commissioners and county representatives attended the third meeting in Sept. 2012 (Okaloosa in July, Panama City in August) held to address the RESTORE Act, which was sponsored by Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, and passed as an amendment in the Federal Highway Bill that was approved by the U.S. Congress, then signed by President Barack Obama in July 2012.
• Passage of the RESTORE Act – which means Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 – may translate into millions of dollars for Gulf counties impacted by the oil tragedy and its repercussions.
• A Transition Budget of $53,000 included 7 percent for Collier County which amounts to $1,120 to cover expenses July through December.
• FAC officials have no expectations when the proceeds from the Clean Water Act penalties will benefit the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund which then will be allocated.
• From the 35 percent “county” pot, funds will be split equally among Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The funding could be anywhere from about $5 million to $20 million for Collier County.
• Re the 30 percent pot of money, the “federal” allocation, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council will implement a recovery plan. The Governor will make an appointment to the Federal Council.
• The Consortium directs the “state” pot of funding which is a 30 percent distribution as well. These funds are competitive and go to each of the 23 Gulf Coast counties based on projects.
• On behalf of 23 counties, FAC took the initiative to facilitate the process. A Consortium is included in the federal legislation for Florida, reported FAC Attorney Ginger DeLegal. The intent is to maintain local government authority while also partnering with the Governor’s office.
• Susan Latvala, of Pinellas County and co-chair of Gulf counties, said the Interlocal Agreement is the backbone; counties will put the meat on it. “Stay united, think regionally, look toward the future.”
• Collier County approved the Interlocal Agreement at the Jan. 8 Board of County Commissioners meeting. Commission Vice Chair Tom Henning is Collier County’s Consortium Representative and Commissioner Donna Fiala is the Alternate.
• FAC Executive Director Chris Holley in explaining the Consortium said that Florida is unique in that it is only one of five states in which the impacted counties rather than the states are receiving Clean Water Act penalties, 80 percent of which go into a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. In the other four of five states, funding goes to their state government.