Friday, November 17, 2017
Opinion

Florida leaders making wise choices with oil spill money

RECOMMENDED READING


A consortium of coastal counties met Friday in St. Petersburg to begin developing a plan to spend Florida's share of fines associated with the 2010 BP oil spill.

This consortium brings the prospect of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Florida to take action for the health of the Gulf of Mexico, the watersheds contributing to it and Florida's gulf coast economies. Thanks to the RESTORE Act, which Congress passed with bipartisan support in June, Florida has the power to decide how to direct the unprecedented resources that will come from the fines paid by those responsible for the spill.

In December, Gov. Rick Scott led by example, prioritizing Florida's economy by allocating $10 million from a Justice Department settlement with MOEX — one of the parties responsible for the Deepwater Horizon blowout — for oil spill restoration and conservation. Under the governor's direction, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection acquired two properties identified under the state's Florida Forever program: Escribano Point in Santa Rosa County and a 2,336-acre conservation easement over Seven Runs Creek in Walton County.

Both parcels are important in protecting our beaches and waterways, and both provide important buffer lands, helping to protect military missions and jobs at Eglin Air Force Base and Choctaw, which are part of Florida's nearly $70 billion-per-year defense-related economy.

These projects are great examples of smart investments of Deepwater Horizon-related penalties that will sustain and improve Florida's reputation as a tourist destination and help protect our military missions and related jobs. Escribano Point provides 5 miles of protected shoreline along Blackwater Bay and East Bay near Pensacola, which will improve water quality flowing into Pensacola Bay and ultimately the beaches vital to the tourism economy of the region. The Seven Runs Creek project protects a number of pristine seepage streams that feed into the Choctawhatchee River, an Outstanding Florida Waters resource in the Panhandle that key tourism areas like Destin and Santa Rosa Beach depend upon.

By directing settlement money to smart conservation projects, Scott and the consortium make strong statements that investments in environmental restoration and conservation can drive economic restoration and help protect military missions and jobs in Florida. County leaders working with the governor have the opportunity to create a lasting legacy for the state's gulf coast, and the governor has done well to chart a course to ensure that that opportunity is not lost.

Shelly Lakly is director of the Florida Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. Patrick J. Flynn is chairman of the Florida Defense Alliance. This column was written exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

 
Comments

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17