Florida and the RESTORE Act: A progress report


Almost six years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, states along the Gulf Coast continue to deal with the spill’s aftermath. In October 2015, BP and the U.S. Justice Department reached a final settlement on claims arising from the spill under which BP agreed to pay fines of $20.8 billion. Under terms of the 2012 Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act), this money will be divided among the Gulf Coast states according to a set formula, to be used to fund projects that benefit the economies and environments of the affect coastal regions.


The act provides that 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines ($5.5B from the proposed BP settlement, plus some funds from drilling contractor Transocean Ltd. and exploration company Anadarko Petroleum Corp.) will be allocated to the five Gulf States in multiple categories:



SOURCE: U.S. Justice Department


Florida has taken positive steps to ensure transparency in how its share of RESTORE funds are spent. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) created an online project-submittal form to allow the public to suggest potential projects for Gov. Rick Scott to consider submitting to the council on behalf of the state. Submittals were evaluated by DEP in consultation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Proposed projects ultimately selected by DEP include economically and ecologically vital watershed and estuary restoration projects along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Recipient counties have established ad hoc RESTORE Committees that have created methodical scoring systems to analyze and assign priority to proposed projects, based on guidelines established by the act. These committees have taken public testimony and many already have begun to provide their respective county commissions with recommendations.

Most of the recommendations made by county RESTORE committees appear to satisfy the Act’s goals. In the case of Charlotte County, one of the 15 counties not classified as “disproportionately impacted,” the U.S. Treasury Department already approved the $726,453 multiyear implementation plan the county submitted.

There are a few cases, however, either of flawed scoring methodology or misplaced priorities. For example, Walton County has proposed a fish hatchery that likely would compete with private nurseries in the area.


Given Florida’s dependence on its natural environment and its vulnerability to storms, the state must give priority to programs that protect and restore natural barriers, such as sand dunes, marshes and coastal wetlands. These are commonsense mitigation efforts with long-term benefits that will not only help the area’s economy, but also will protect inland developed areas. An additional benefit of this approach would be its contribution to reducing Florida’s property-insurance rates. Ultimately, Florida should prioritize the projects that provide the greatest environmental and economic benefit for the longest amount of time.

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