MANATEE -- A restoration plan for popular Robinson Preserve won the highest rating in its category of all projects submitted in the first level of review for one source of monies stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, an official said Tuesday.
Although a settlement has not yet been finalized with BP, the British oil company responsible for the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, southwest Florida counties are submitting requests for projects in anticipation of billions in penalties and fines eventually being made available.
The $4.45 million plan for restoration of a newly acquired, 150-acre tract at Robinson Preserve in northwest Bradenton tops Manatee County's list. The land is located south and east of the existing Robinson Preserve, 1704 99th St. NW.
The project was included in an ecosystem restoration plan prepared by the Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay and Charlotte Harbor Estuary programs in accordance with the federal Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy of the Gulf Coast Act of 2011, according to a memo written by Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County natural resources director. The RESTORE Act sets out how BP remuneration will be distributed.
"Our proposal to continue restoration of Robinson Preserve was ranked the top project in the nine-county area in the restoration category," Hunsicker told the Manatee County Commission Tuesday.
Despite its top score, the project must make it through another round of reviews at the state level, Hunsicker said.
"It may be funded as part of a grouping of projects -- that is our hope," he said.
After Gov. Rick Scott's staff completes vetting all projects, top choices will be submitted to a federal panel for a final funding decision, Hunsicker said.
The oil disaster began April 20, 2010, when an oil drilling platform caught fire and exploded in the Gulf, killing 11 oil workers and polluting beaches in five states, including sections of the Florida Panhandle.
Manatee County beaches remained pristine, but although it escaped oil slicks, the county suffered collateral damage from canceled reservations and other related economic losses.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.