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Plans for RESTORE Act Funding Begin for Gulf Coast

February 28, 2013

PANAMA CITY, Fla. - The first of several hearings will take place tonight in Panama City to put together a plan for how Restore Act funds will be used for the Gulf Coast, left severely damaged after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and the Gulf Consortium, which will have jurisdiction over much of the funds, want the public's input on how to design a comprehensive plan for the region.

"The Restore Act provides us with a historic opportunity to fix some of that longer-term damage that we've experienced over the last couple of decades," said David White, director of the Gulf Restoration Campaign for the National Wildlife Federation.

The Restore Act was passed last year to ensure that at least 80 percent of the fines collected from BP will go to the restoration of the Gulf Coast.

As plans for the money begin, the trial against BP continues in New Orleans. Federal prosecutors have argued that the oil giant put profits ahead of safety, but executives from BP insist that the blame for the disaster that leaked 170 million gallons of oil should be shared.

Much of the Restore Act funding won't become available until the cases are settled against BP, but White says there are already state plans in place to do things such as restoring oyster beds and estuaries and repairing damage to wetlands.

"If we can just look at some of the existing priorities and existing plans," he said, "we're well on our way to prioritizing which projects need to be started right away."

The public is invited to comment on how the Restore Act funding should be spent by attending a public hearing at 6 p.m. today at Gulf Coast State College's Student Union East Conference Center, 5230 W. U.S. Highway 98, Panama City Beach, or by logging onto

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL