MANATEE -- Although no oil landed on Manatee County shores from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the county continues to benefit economically.
Manatee County is expected to receive an additional $12.4 million over 15 years as part of the Pot 3, or Spill Impact Component of Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast -- RESTORE -- Act of 2012. The "even-stevens" allocation of these funds among the 23 counties in the Gulf Coast Consortium was determined during a recent meeting in Amelia Island.
"Our goal is to have this go to restore our environment because it was an environment disaster," said Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who represents Manatee County on the consortium. "It would be used for environmentally related projects. It's a good amount of money. It's unfortunate how we got it, but we are going to make sure it stays with the intent."
But before any of these funds make their way to Manatee County, Gov. Rick Scott still has to approve the state expenditure plan, and the Gulf Coast Consortium has to approve the projects that will benefit Manatee County, according to Charlie Hunsicker, the county's parks and natural resources department director.
Since the money will be paid out in structured payouts, Hunsicker said this "limits the purchasing power in any one year."
"We as a county should not expect a check in the amount apportioned to us from the consortium. Rather we should expect a number of projects approved by the 23-member consortium," Hunsicker said, adding that the projects will benefit the environment of the Gulf.
The share of Pot 3 funds, which comes from the $242 million total allocated to Florida, is not the only money Manatee County will receive from the BP oil spill settlement. This summer, the county commission accepted a settlement offer of $1.4 million, and Hunsicker said he also expects another $4.5 million over an estimated 17 years.
Although the county would not be able to use the money to support any significant capital expenditures, it would be enough to assist in maintaining existing environment-related operations.
"We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to take care of the properties the county owns," Hunsicker said. "It is our hope that much of this structured payment, a little bit every year, can go a long way to helping us do a good job in keep the environmental values that we currently enjoy within the 30,000 acres that we maintain for the public."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@Claire_Aronson.